Whenever tech analysts probe the burgeoning tablet market, their attention always seems to focus on Apple's iPad and the growing family of Google Android devices. This is natural, given the market share those two franchises command. However, according to new research from Strategy Analytics, Microsoft is slowly creeping into the tablet rankings with Windows 7, overtaking even Research In Motion's well-publicized PlayBook.
According to Strategy Analytics, Apple's iOS occupied some 61.3 percent of the tablet market in the second quarter, followed by Android with 30.1 percent, Microsoft with 4.6 percent and QNX (which RIM uses for the PlayBook) with 3.3 percent. Undefined "others" brought up the rear with 0.7 percent.
For Apple, that marks a substantial decline from the second quarter of 2010, when it occupied some 94.3 percent of the tablet market, followed by Android with 2.9 percent, and both Microsoft and QNX with a flat 0 percent.
"Microsoft captured a niche 5 percent global tablet share in Q2 2011, leveraging Windows 7 through partners such as Fujitsu," read a July 21 note accompanying the research. "RIM and its QNX platform captured 3 percent global tablet share in Q2 2011. The first-generation PlayBook model experienced a lackluster launch due to product design issues surrounding native email support."
Windows 7 tablets lack the presence of the iPad or Android tablets on U.S. store shelves, although Microsoft featured several meant for the Asian market at its booth during this year's Consumer Electronics Show in January. Microsoft is reserving its main tablet push for the next version of Windows, widely expected to enter the market in the latter half of 2012.
Meanwhile, RIM is pushing its PlayBook as a tablet for both enterprise users and consumers. In response to rumors that the company planned on discontinuing the WiFi-only version of the device currently on the market, a RIM spokesperson told eWEEK that the PlayBook has launched in 16 new markets over the past month, with additional rollouts planned for Southeast Asia, Western Europe and the Middle East.
That being said, the PlayBook has proven to be something less than an iPad killer, selling around 500,000 units in its first quarter of release. Nor, according to an unnamed RIM employee speaking to the blog Boy Genius Report, did the company sell those units at full margin.
"RIM's thought process was that they hoped if they put a product in the carrier's hands that was less than full margin, it would entice the carriers," that employee is quoted as saying in a July 13 posting. "RIM isn't making any money on the PlayBook."
The PlayBook needs a nearby BlackBerry device to provide native email, something the source added was off-putting to the carriers. RIM has been pushing through regular software updates to PlayBook owners, but it remains to be seen whether the tablet can sustain momentum in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
And despite all those tablet options, a small number of users-perhaps enterprise workers with a need to run legacy applications on an ultra-portable device-evidently want Windows.