Microsoft garnered just a "niche" in the global tablet market in the first quarter of 2013, following a period of user confusion after the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, analysts say.
According to Strategy Analytics, Windows 8- and Windows RT-based tablets garnered a combined 7.4% of the global market in the period, with 3 million units shipped to retailers.
It is the first full quarter that Windows tablets have been compared with Android and iOS, Strategy Analytics said.
Apple's iOS tablets, including the Mini, led the way in Q1 holding nearly half of the market -- 48.2% -- with 19.5 million units shipped. Android tablet shipments from a variety of manufacturers totaled 17.6 million, or 43.4% of the tablet market.
Only a year earlier, Apple's iOS-based tablets claimed nearly two-thirds of the market, or 63%, while Android-based devices accounted for a 34% share.
The dramatic 177% market share rise of Android tablets over the 12 months doesn't include low-budget Android white box tablet models. With those devices, Android's share would have totaled 52%, and pushed iOS back to 41%, Strategy Analytics said.
The overall tablet market surged by 117% during the period, with 40.6 million tablets sold in the first 2013 quarter compared to 18.7 million in the same period last year, Strategy Analytics said.
The modern tablet industry was launched in the second quarter of 2010 with the introduction of Apple's first iPad.
In a statement, Strategy Analytics described Microsoft's 7.4% tablet share as a "niche" of the market. It owed the small share to "limited distribution, a shortage of top tier apps and confusion in the market."
Peter King, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, said in an email that Microsoft's Windows 8- and RT-based tablets are similar to the first iteration of any company's technology -- "never without some problems."
Microsoft has the resources to turn things around for its tablets, he said, adding that "we hope they do. The ecosystem needs a playing field with at least three OS's."
Microsoft announced the 10.6-in. Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets last June in Hollywood, Calif. In October, the company showed off third party Windows 8 tablets and convertibles and discussed more details of its Surface RT tablet at an event in New York City.
The Surface RT began shipping to users in October along with other third party tablets. The Surface Pro went on sale in February.
In November, Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky left Microsoft, which analysts said at the time indicated a sure sign of problems.
In January, IDC surveys found that Microsoft had shipped 900,000 Surface RT tablets in the fourth quarter of 2012, which it said illustrated "muted" demand for the product.
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