Apple, Android Lead Worldwide Tablet Market: Strategy Analytics

Apple iOS and Google Android devices remain the clear leaders, although Windows-based tablets are posting modest gains in the worldwide tablet market.

Global tablet shipments reached 40.6 million units in the first quarter of 2013, with Google's Android platform securing an impressive 43 percent global share, while Apple iOS devices, including the iPad and the iPad mini, maintained their strong market leadership, accounting for nearly half (48 percent) of tablets shipped, according to the latest report from IT research firm Strategy Analytics.

Microsoft's Windows platform secured a 7.5 percent global share in the first quarter of the year, which, while lagging far behind Android and iOS, is a huge improvement from the same period a year ago, before the launch of Windows 8 and the Acer- and Lenovo-branded tablets carrying the company's new operating system.

While sales of Microsoft's Surface tablets have been less than stellar—Microsoft has ordered 3 million of the devices, but just half of those have been sold, according to a recent report—the combination of Surface sales and other Windows 8 tablets has quadrupled Microsoft's share in the tablet market. Microsoft is betting on tablets to offset the decline in PC sales as consumers turn to smaller, more mobile devices to work and access media content.

"Global branded tablet shipments reached an all-time high of 40.6 million units in Q1 2013, surging 117 percent from 18.7 million in Q1 2012," Peter King, director of tablets at Strategy Analytics and author of the report, said in a statement. "Demand for tablets among consumer, business and education users remains strong. Apple produced a solid performance this quarter as the Mini had its first full term and shipped a robust 19.5 million mixed iPads worldwide maintaining market leadership with 48 percent share during the first quarter of 2013."

The report noted that very limited distribution, a shortage of top-tier apps and confusion in the market are all holding back shipments of Windows-based tablets, while global Android tablet shipments increased 177 percent annually to 17.6 million units. The growth of global branded tablet shipments in Q1 2013 compared with shipments in Q1 2012 was the highest consecutive year Q1 shipment figure since the modern tablet industry began in the second quarter of 2010.

The report noted that when white-box tablets—tablets produced by one company, such as the original device manufacturer (ODM), that other companies, like the vendor or original equipment manufacturer (OEM), rebrand to make it appear as if they made it—are added into the mix, Android market share of the total tablet market increases to 52 percent and iOS slips to 41 percent, as the bulk of the white-box tablets are low-budget Android models aimed at a different market than branded tablets.

Tablet shipments will exceed 350 million by the end of 2017, due to a predicted surge of smaller, lower-priced devices in the market, according to a March report from IT research firm IDC. The research firm raised its 2013 forecast for the worldwide tablet market to 190.9 million from its previous forecast for the year of 172.4 million units. Increases in tablet shipments have been made throughout the forecast period, with an average annual increase of 11 percent between 2013 and 2016.