Surprise! Windows tablet market share jumps to 7.5%

Windows tablets aren't dead -- they hit a surprisingly high 7.5% market share in the first quarter of 2013. A 7.5% market share might not seem like much, but consider the woes that Windows tablets have been living through, that's encouraging news for Microsoft. It may mean that despite all the bad news, bad press, and bad planning, there's a real future for the devices.

A Strategy Analytics report found that for the first quarter of 2013, Windows tablets had 7.5% of the market, with 3 million shipped.

Windows tablet sales are well below iPads, with a 48.2% market share and 19.5 million units shipped, and Android tablets, with 43.4% market share, and 17.6 million units shipped. Still, 7.5% is a very solid showing.

Most reports have said that Windows tablets and Windows RT tablets are selling quite slowly. IDC, for example, estimates that Windows RT will have only 1.9% of tablet market share in 2013, and only 2.7% by 2017. And ABI Research says that in 2012, Windows tablets, BlackBerry tablets and "unidentified OS implementations" currently made up only a combined 3% of the total market, and don't show signs of significant growth.

An an IDC survey earlier this year said that that Microsoft had shipped only 900,000 Surface RT tablets in the fourth quarter of 2012. IDC said that shows "muted" demand for the product.

Despite the good news in the Strategy Analytics report, it didn't project big growth for Windows tablets. It noted:

Very limited distribution, a shortage of top tier apps, and confusion in the market, are all holding back shipments.

And Peter King, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, told Computerworld in an email there were several reasons Surface tablets haven't been big sellers:

"A piece of hardware from guys with no track record of making any hardware successfully, with the exception of Xbox, combined with a totally new touch version of Windows, combined with a high price tag, is hardly the recipe for mass on-line purchasing...Today, distribution is still very limited and there are very few stores where you walk in and expect to see an RT or Windows 8 tablet."

As a result, Strategy Analytics called Windows tablets a "niche" market.

Still, 7.5% is a lot higher than I expected Windows tablets to gain, especially this early in their life cycle. And new 7-inch design specs for the tablets may spur sales even further. So even though analysts and observers -- including me -- have considered Windows tablets down for the count, this new report shows they have a fighting chance.

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