IDC Tablet Report Casts Shadow Over Windows 8 Tablet Hopes

The overall tablet market is exploding, with year-over-year growth of 142 percent, according to IDC. But it's an Android and iOS world, and Microsoft has been all but shut out.

This week research firm IDC published its report on tablet sales for Q1 of 2013, and the results do not bode well for Microsoft and Windows, particularly Windows RT.

Overall, the tablet market is exploding, with year-over-year growth of 142 percent.

When broken down by tablet maker, Apple still has the market share lead with 39.6 percent for Q1. But Samsung, Asus (Google Nexus 7 OEM) and Amazon all experienced more year-over-year growth than Apple.

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When measured by operating system, Android was the big winner, owning 56.5 percent of the market (Thanks to strong sales of Samsung, Google Nexus and Amazon). A year ago, Android was in second place with 39.4 percent of the market, with iOS in first with 58.1 percent; this past quarter, Android and iOS switched places, with 56.5 percent and 39.6 percent of the market respectively.

It's not as if Apple has faltered; it's more that the Android army has expanded.

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Then there's Microsoft, which has faltered in the tablet space. And with IDC's lowly Windows tablet numbers there's nowhere for Microsoft to hide ("60 million Windows 8 licenses sold!").

Microsoft's tablet tale for Q1 breaks down like this, according to IDC:

--Microsoft hardware shipments (i.e. Surface) sold 900,000 units (700,000 Surface Pros and 200,000 Surface RTs) and captured 1.8 percent tablet market share.

--When measured by operating system, Windows 8/Windows RT garnered 3.7 percent of tablet market share, a distant third place behind Android (56.5 percent) and iOS (39.6 percent).

In Microsoft's defense, Windows 8 and Surface devices are still fairly new. Wildfire tablet growth is a lot to ask for in such a short time. But in the context of gangbuster sales growth from Samsung (282 percent y-o-y growth), Asus (350 percent y-o-y growth), Amazon (157 percent y-o-y growth) and Apple (65 percent y-o-y growth), Microsoft's 1.8 percent market share for Surface devices and 3.7 percent total Windows OS tablet share looks grim.

What's even worse for Microsoft, is that IDC cites the hottest growth area in tablets to be the smaller and cheaper 7-inch and 8-inch space. Larger-screen (10-inch) tablet sales are flat, according to IDC. Microsoft currently has no small tablet, but rumors persist that there is one in the works.

IDC research director Ryan Reith says Microsoft needs to release a smaller screen Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet and it must be affordable, which when compared to the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD, would have to be $200 at the most.

"Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7-8 inch devices, but Microsoft's larger challenges center around consumer messaging and lower cost competition," says Reith in an IDC release. "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."

The message from IDC's tablet report is clear: big, pricey Windows 8 tablets are not cutting it; go small or go home.

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