Microsoft launched Windows 8, the touchscreen reboot of its desktop OS, last autumn and in the space of 6 months its market share has swung from zero to 7.4%. Compared to other Windows products this is positive (in the smart phone market the Windows Phone took only 4.1% of the market share). However, it is clear that Microsoft are still finding it difficult to do what Apple have done, transform themselves from a computer company, into an technological innovation company.
Compared to the dominant players in the tablet OS market — iOS and Android — Microsoft’s share is very modest. Tangible reasons outside of branding limitations could also be inadequate distribution, a shortage of top tier apps and ‘confusion’ in the market. To explain further, Microsoft has followed a Windows Phone strategy of paying developers to create apps for Windows 8, but it’s still got work to do in the quality vs. quantity stakes. Confusion in the market, a complaint heard from a few tech commentators, has also come from Microsoft’s decision to offer two types of tablet OS (Windows RT/Windows 8).
While general tablet sales overall are up 142 per cent year-on-year in the first three-month chunk of 2013, Microsoft shipped an estimated 900,000 Surface tablets, suggesting that its Windows 8-powered devices are finding their way to a special fan community but not in particularly huge numbers.
More worryingly for Microsoft is the low adoption of Windows 8 tablets. IDC stated that combined sales of Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets across all manufacturers reached just 1.8 million units.
According to Strategy Analytics’ figures, Apple retains its lead in the tablet OS space, with a 48.2% share in Q1 vs. a “robust” 43.4% for Android on 19.5 million and 17.6 million unit shipments respectively. Nevertheless, Apple’s tablet lead over Android is shrinking considerably, having dropped to under half the market from 63.1% in one year at a time when Android accounted for just a third of the market (34.2%).
One analyst has described Apple’s performance as “solid”, helped by its first full quarter with the iPad mini in its tablet portfolio. But Android is growing faster, with global branded Android tablet shipments increasing 177% annually in the quarter. Add in budget white box tablets and Android becomes the market leader, taking a 52% share of the total tablet market while iOS slips to 41%.
Moving forward, it could be a hard time for Windows to defend or even increase its market share with its current products and strategic model. The variety of touchscreen and mobile devices mean that Windows OS is up against very strong competitors and it may take more that their current market launches to break out of their pre-existing mould and try to challenge or lead the market as they did in the past.