Microsoft's tablet blip versus Android's boom

The surge in Android tablet shipments is not good news for Microsoft, which is just now trying to gain a toehold in the market.

Android-based tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire are becoming very popular just as Microsoft enters the tablet market.
Android-based tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire are becoming very popular just as Microsoft enters the tablet market. Amazon

As Android tablet shipments surge, probably the best thing that can be said about Microsoft is that it's not going away.

Android tablet shipments totaled about 30 million in the fourth quarter, IDC reported today . And that number (total market) jumps to 50 million if you throw in Apple's iPad.

"There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul," an IDC analyst said today in a statement, trying to put Microsoft's tablet debut into perspective.

In fact, that's probably about as positive a statement that can be made at the moment.

Then this: "Reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best," IDC added.

Muted in this case amounts to 900,000 units shipped "into the channel." (Note that IHS iSuppli told CNET that Microsoft actually sold a lot less .)

So, how does that compare with other major vendors just entering the market? Amazon shipped about 4.7 million Kindle Fire tablets in the fourth quarter of 2011 when that $199 tablet debuted.

And Asus, which makes Google's Nexus 7 tablet, shipped 3.1 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2012, the quarter after the Nexus 7's debut. Many if not most of those are undoubtedly the Nexus 7.

Throw in the market totals that IDC reported today (Amazon shipped about 6 million last quarter and Samsung almost 8 million) and it's clear that Android tablets are not only leaving a bigger footprint in the market but are eroding Apple's share.

That leaves Microsoft, for now, as a blip amid an Android boom.

How does Microsoft gain on Android? Lowering prices might help.

"We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices," IDC said.

And what about the long haul? "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," IDC added.

That could indeed be a long haul.

Will Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 Surface Pro with laptop-like performance sell in large numbers?  We'll see.  But with a starting price of $899, it's certainly not a bargain compared with Android tablets.
Will Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 Surface Pro with laptop-like performance sell in large numbers? We'll see. But with a starting price of $899, it's certainly not a bargain compared with Android tablets. Microsoft
 

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