Don’t write off Microsoft’s chances in mobile just yet. It may still be struggling to make itself count in the smartphone space but early signs are more promising for Windows plus tablets. Microsoft has gone from having no share of the global tablet OS market in Q1 last year to taking 7.4% one year later, with three million Windows 8 tablets shipped in Q1 2013, according to preliminary figures from Strategy Analytics‘ Global Tablet OS Market Share: Q1 2013 report.
The analyst notes record tablet shipments in the quarter, with global branded tablet shipments reaching an “all-time high” of 40.6 million units in Q1, driven on by year-on-year growth of 117% (vs 146% in Q1 2012).
Microsoft launched Windows 8, its touchscreen-friendly reboot of its desktop OS, last fall — so it’s swung from zero to a 7.4% share in just under half a year. Compare that to the Windows Phone OS, which launched more than two years ago, in fall 2010: Windows Phone took only a 4.1% share in the US smartphone OS market in the three months ending February, according to Kantar figures. Globally, its share is even smaller. Earlier this year ABI Research predicted Windows Phone will end 2013 with around 3% of the worldwide market.
Returning to tablets, compared to the dominant players in the tablet OS market — iOS and Android — Microsoft’s share is still very modest. Strategy Analytics dubs it a “niche” portion, noting that “very limited distribution, a shortage of top tier apps, and confusion in the market, are all holding back shipments”. Microsoft has followed its Windows Phone strategy of paying developers to create apps for Windows 8 but it’s still got work to do in the quality vs quantity stakes. While “confusion in the market” likely refers to Microsoft’s decision to offer two flavours of tablet OS (Windows RT/Windows 8).
According to Strategy Analytics’ figures, Apple retains its lead in the tablet OS space, with a 48.2% share in Q1 vs a “robust” 43.4% for Android on 19.5 million and 17.6 million unit shipments respectively. Apple’s tablet lead over Android is shrinking considerably, dropping to under half the market from 63.1% in the year ago quarter when Android took just over a third (34.2%).
The analyst described Apple’s performance as “solid”, helped by its first full quarter with the iPad mini in its tablet portfolio. But Android is growing fastest, with global branded Android tablet shipments increasing 177% annually in the quarter. Add in budget white box tablets and Android becomes the market leader, taking a 52% share of the total tablet market while iOS slips to 41%.