Research firm IDC has issued its latest tablet market report, and it would appear that not much has changed from last quarter to this one. Apple is still leading the charge with its iPads and iPad mini now responsible for a 39.6% market share, though its Android rival Samsung continues to show steady growth after shipping 8.8 million units last quarter and pulling up to 17.9% market share.
Nexus 7 maker Asus showed great year-over-year growth but remains in a distant third place, while Amazon and its Kindle Fire tablets slipped down to fourth. IDC also says that Android tablets are more numerous than iOS ones, with the former now representing 56.5% of the market compared to the latter’s 39.6% share.
The report claims that consumers’ interest in slates continues to grow, with the reported 49.1 million total tablet shipments in Q1 of 2013 surpassing the total number of shipments made in the entire first half of last year. IDC believes that this growth isn’t going to stop anytime soon, as the market continues to gobble up more and more “smaller screen devices.”
But for the one major newcomer to the tablet scene, Microsoft, the returns of IDC’s report appear to be mixed. The good news is that the Redmond clan has now shipped enough Surface tablets to be a top five vendor on the market.
But the not-so-good news is that the company only moved 900,000 total Surface for Windows RT and Surface Pro units to get there. That’s good for a 1.8% market share, moving them by Barnes & Noble and the struggling Nook and into fifth overall. For reference, IDC reported Microsoft as having a 1.7% market share last quarter.
Considering that the tablet market in general is exploding in the U.S., and considering the amount of buzz and advertising surrounding the Surface tablets’ launches, Microsoft could very well consider those numbers to be a disappointment.
IDC reported that Microsoft shipped a little under 900,000 units in its last quarterly report, so the fact that those shipments didn’t sink after the holidays could be seen as encouraging. But in general, Microsoft’s growth is a far cry from the likes of Apple, Samsung and most other Android vendors. And even combined with third-party manufacturers, Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets only combine to make up 3.7% of the tablet market as a whole.
These figures shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Microsoft was late to enter into a crowded tablet market. Its Surface RT slate was seen as a disappointment from many users and most critics, and its beefier Surface Pro only launched this past February. Both of those tablets sport larger screens in a time where the market is demanding tablets closer to 7-inch form factors. They’re both relatively expensive too, with the Surface Pro essentially at the price of an Ultrabook. Microsoft’s ad campaign has largely been seen as unhelpful, the Surface Pro’s launch was staggered and initially limited, and user confusion over the changes in Windows 8 and that OS relates to Windows RT has been common. It hasn’t been the smoothest of entries, to be sure.
Yet despite all this, there’s still reason for hope. Microsoft has already confirmed rumors that it is working with manufacturers to help introduce cheaper Windows 8 hardware, and company CFO Peter Klein said in a recent investors call that Microsoft plans to release new “small touch devices” that run with Windows. Various reports, like one today from Digitimes, have said that the company will introduce its next generation of Surface tablets soon, and that those slates will sport the smaller form factors that are en vogue today.
A smaller Surface could prove to be a boon for Microsoft, but IDC claims that the company’s issues lie beyond just size.
“Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7-8 inch devices, but Microsoft\’s larger challenges center around consumer messaging and lower cost competition,” said IDC’s Ryan Reith. “If these challenges are addressed, along with the desired screen size variations, then we could see Microsoft make even further headway in 2013 and beyond.\”
If Microsoft is to announce a Surface tablet in the near future, expect it to take place at the company’s Build conference late next month. The company has already hinted that it will then discuss its next Xbox and Windows 8.1, the reported update to Windows 8 that has been codenamed ‘Blue,’ so new Surface-related announcements could come as well. Until then, the PC giant still appears to have a long way to go before it can reach the heights of its competitors.