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Q1 Report: Apple Dominates Tablet Market, Surface Sells 900K

IDC shared first-quarter tablet sales results today, showing that Apple is firmly in the lead, with Microsoft appearing as but a blip on the horizon.

In terms of tablet devices shipped, Apple delivered 19.5 million devices during the first quarter. Samsung placed second with 8.8 million devices, followed by Asus (2.7 million) and Amazon.com (1.8 million). Microsoft, which recently declared itself to be a "devices and services" company, had sold 900,000 Surface RT and Surface Pro devices during the quarter.

Microsoft first began selling its Surface RT tablet-PC devices in October of 2012, but its Surface Pro sales began later, in February of 2013, in the U.S. and Canadian markets. Microsoft's Surface devices amounted to just 1.8 percent of the overall tablet market for the first quarter, according to IDC's data, while Apple's tablets led with a 39.6 percent market grip.

The operating system market share for tablets was a bit different than the device market tallies, according to IDC's data. The Linux-based Android OS led with 56.5 percent of the market (27.8 million units), followed by Apple's iOS at 39.6 percent (19.5 million units), Windows at 3.3 percent (1.6 million units) and Windows RT at 0.4 percent (200,000 units).

"Android's share surpassed iOS in the latter half of 2012," explained Jitesh Ubrani, a research analyst for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers, via an e-mail.

All told, there were 49.2 million tablets shipped worldwide in the first quarter. That represents a year-over-year growth rate of 142.4 percent, according to IDC.

In mid-March, IDC shared its projected tablet estimates for 2013. However, the new data being reported today stems from the "IDC Worldwide Tablet Tracker" report published in May, and it includes full first-quarter results.

IDC's first-quarter tablet results are somewhat at odds with first-quarter findings reported by Strategy Analytics. For instance, Strategy Analytics found that Microsoft shipped three million Windows tablets in the first quarter, representing a 7.5 percent market share. According to IDC, there were a total of 1.8 million Windows and Windows RT shipments in the first quarter, representing 3.7 percent of the market.

Microsoft needs to execute on delivering smaller 7-inch to 8-inch tablets at lower price points to be competitive in the market, according to IDC.

"Firstly, Microsoft needs to focus on its messaging," Ubrani indicated. "Consumers still aren't buying the value proposition of Windows RT. Smaller, cheaper devices would certainly help bolster Microsoft and other device vendors' market share. However, such low-cost devices tend to have low margins and vendors will have to focus on finding niche markets in order to maintain profitability."

Microsoft suggested during its fiscal third-quarter earnings report that smaller form factors would be seen with future Windows devices, as well as devices offered at "more attractive price points." These new devices could leverage new Intel Haswell and Bay Trail chips that are expected to arrive in the second half of this year.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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