Android wins Q2 tablet battle against Apple and Microsoft

Minus low-price strategies, Apple and Microsoft forever doomed to trail Google

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Microsoft still overwhelmingly relies on its OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners for Windows-powered hardware. They have also been dogged by sluggish sales, and virtually all have either declined to support Windows RT or abandoned the scaled-down OS designed exclusively for tablets.

Nor have Windows tablet prices been competitive. "The $349 is where they should have started," said King, of this month's $150 price cut to the Surface RT line, a move that forced Microsoft to take a $900 million charge against earnings as it accounted for the discount and the overstock that drove it.

Microsoft has taken corrective steps, including the Surface RT price cut and a deal with the U.S. electronic retail chain Best Buy that will balloon the number of outlets selling Surface.

"Microsoft will be back," said King, ticking off the company's strengths, including a large war chest and this fall's free Windows 8.1 upgrade. "But for them, it's 'Okay, back to the drawing board,'" he added, noting that in the meantime Microsoft will have lost 12 months in its fight to claw out a significant share.

Some of the factors involved in the decline of share in Apple- and Windows-marked tablets, however, will not be easily addressed.

Android tablets, especially the cut-rate white box units, have a stranglehold on the low-priced segment. "Outside the U.S. and Europe, sales are driven by the low-cost models, not because they're great, because they're not, but because people [in those markets] don't have as much disposable income," said King.

The cut-throat price war in tablets has prompted analysts to call for Apple to consider discounting the iPad Mini, the company's $329 7.9-in. tablet, to $249.

Minus cost cuts and discounts -- far from a given by either Apple or Microsoft -- there's no chance either company will shove Android aside as the share leader, said King, parroting other analysts who have said Google's operating system will remain dominant for the foreseeable future.

Strategic Analytics based its early tablet estimates on polls of vendors, publicly-released data and supply chain checks. Its numbers represent "sell-in," or tablet shipments, not final sales.

This article, Android wins Q2 tablet battle against Apple and Microsoft, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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