Everyone wins in tablet market – except Microsoft

Tablet makers posted another record quarter, according to IDC, but Microsoft’s Surface RT failed to make much of a mark.

Everyone wins in tablet market - except Microsoft

The analyst firm said the overall tablet market grew to 52.5m devices shipped last quarter, up by 75% on the same period last year – which IDC pinned on new products and falling prices.

Apple shipped 22.9m iPads, up by half from the previous year, but lost market share as rivals expanded the size of the market.

Samsung sales leapt from 2.2m in 2011 to 7.9m in the final quarter of 2012, while Amazon and Asus also posted big gains with their Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7.

Microsoft shipped 900,000 Surface RT tablets – just missing a spot in the top five, with US book store Barnes & Noble’s pipping it by 100,000. In the quarter immediately after the launch of the Kindle Fire, Amazon shipped 4.7m devices; in the quarter the Nexus 7 launched, Asus shipped 2.4m – although that includes all the tablets it makes.

However it’s worth noting the analyst tracks shipments to retailers, not actual sales to consumers. Microsoft has yet to confirm exactly how many Surface RT devices it’s sold, or how many third-party tablets have sold.

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“There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul,” said Ryan Reith, program manager, Mobile Device Trackers at IDC. “However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company’s Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best.”

While the fourth quarter of last year did mark the arrival of Surface RT, Microsoft is only set to start selling the x86 version, Surface Windows 8 Pro, next week. However, it’s sold at a premium to the RT version.

“We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices,” Reith said. “In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then ASPs [average selling prices] on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes.”

However, the stats suggest the market is continuing to grow, leaving plenty of room for new devices – whether they’re running Windows 8 or not.

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