Things may not be as dire for Microsoft's tablet-friendly Windows 8 operating system as analysts have indicated, according to new market data from Boston-based Strategy Analytics.
The research firm announced on April 23 that Microsoft notched a 7.5 percent share of the global tablet market during the first quarter of 2013. In total, tablet makers shipped 3 million Windows 8 slates (including RT) in the first quarter.
In a statement, Strategy Analytics noted, "Microsoft captured a niche 7.5 percent global tablet share in Q1 2013. Very limited distribution, a shortage of top tier apps, and confusion in the market, are all holding back shipments."
It's a view that echoes some of IDC Research Director Tom Mainelli's criticisms. "Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far. Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8," he said in a March 12 statement.
On March 15, Bloomberg revealed that sales of Surface RT and Pro—Microsoft-branded Windows RT and 8 tablets, respectively—were on the disappointing side, stoking fears that the Redmond, Wash., company had another Zune on its hands.
"Microsoft has sold little more than a million of the Surface RT version and about 400,000 Surface Pros since their debuts, according to three people, who asked not to be named because sales haven't yet been made public," reported Bloomberg.
While Microsoft has a lot of ground to cover if it hopes to catch up to Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating system in the marketplace, Strategy Analytics' findings suggest that Windows 8 isn't off to such a terrible start in the tablet race.
The group's data shows that Microsoft went from practically zero percent of the tablet market before Windows 8 launched to over 7 percent today. Surface RT, along with Windows 8/RT tablets from other OEMs, first hit the market six months ago on Oct. 26, 2012. Surface Pro, which runs the full, x86-compatible version of Windows 8, went on sale on Feb. 9.
There are also indications that Microsoft is getting more aggressive in countering Apple and Google in the tablet arena.
Microsoft recently relaxed its Windows 8 certification guidelines, paving the way for compact, 7-inch Windows-powered tablets that challenge Apple's hot-selling iPad Mini. The company is also in the midst of preparing its Blue update for Windows 8, which is expected to deliver several enhancements and optimizations to expand on the operating system's touch-enabled functionality.
A survey of the market reveals why Microsoft is keen on making sure that Windows 8 resonates with tablet shoppers.
Apple ranked first with 19.5 million units and 48.2 percent of the worldwide tablet market in the first quarter. Second-place Android accounted for 17.6 million units and 43.4 percent of the market.
In total, a record number of tablets shipped during the first quarter of 2013, said Peter King, director of tablets at Strategy Analytics. "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. Demand for tablets among consumer, business and education users remains strong," he said in a statement.