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Detachable tablets like the Surface Pro 4 are leading a recovery in the PC market

Why it matters to you

The PC market's continued recovery means that vendors will be likely to keep making really cool machines.

The PC market has seen a few years of declining sales, leading some pundits to predict that Apple’s “post-PC” world was underway. The iPad’s initially strong sales seemed to confirm the idea that consumption tablets would eventually dominate the industry at the PC’s expense.

More recent data, however, suggests that PCs are recovering, and that tablets like the iPad are falling by the wayside. The most recent IDC data supports both of those positions, with detachable tablets leading the way to stronger than expected PC sales through 2021.

More: iPad sales may be slowing but Microsoft’s Surface business is booming

The weakest PC segment, according to IDC’s forecast, will be the desktop, data center, and workstation market, which will see sales decline by 2.8 percent between 2016 and 2021. That’s less of a decline than in past years, however, based in part on a stronger market than expected in 2016.

IDC Worldwide

Meanwhile, traditional notebook sales were stronger in 2016, based at least in part on continued Windows 10 adoption and growth in the ultraportable and premium markets. IDC expects notebook sales to grow by 0.7 percent between 2016 and 2021, which would be a much rosier picture than past forecasts.

Slate tablets like the iPad will continue their decline, however, falling 6.5 percent through 2021. The primary competitive device is the detachable tablet, which provides a more robust productivity experience. According to IDC, detachable tablets will grow a whopping 21.2 percent between 2016 and 2021, which bodes well for the growing number of Windows 10 2-in-1 machines hitting the market.

As IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani puts it, “Consumers are just starting to graduate from old, consumption-based, slate tablets to a more productive detachable tablet. At the same time, the benefit of having a thin, touch-sensitive, productivity-based machine is shining light on the traditional PC category, causing vendors and consumers to focus on more premium devices in the Convertible and Ultraslim space.”

These latest numbers help dispel the notion that PCs are becoming irrelevant in the face of mobile devices like consumption tablets and smartphones. It seems that productivity remains important, and that an increasing number of users recognize that PCs are the real productivity devices.