Windows Tablets Make Gains Despite Windows RT, Surface Troubles

Shipments of tablets running Windows experienced a 527 percent year-over-year growth in the second quarter of 2013, market research firm IDC reported Monday.

Granted, that is a jump from a very low base. Windows shipped on 1.8 million tablet devices sold in Q2 2013, accounting for 4 percent of the market, compared to 1 percent in the same period in 2013.

Meanwhile, Windows RT shipped on only 200,000 systems, mostly Microsoft's own Surface RT devices, according to IDC. Windows RT tablets captured just 0.5 percent market share.

Both Microsoft operating systems trail market-leader Google Android and runner-up Apple iOS. Android shipped on 28 million tablet devices over the quarter, finishing with 62.6 percent market share. iOS shipped on nearly 15 million tablet devices, and had 32.5 percent market share.

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: IDC

The findings in IDC's report represent the latest stinging data point indicating that systems with Windows RT are not catching on with consumers, business users or IT pros. Because the second quarter ended June 30, IDC's numbers don't take into account the fact that Microsoft last month slashed the price of its Surface RT devices. However, that factor is not likely to have a dramatic effect on the next quarter, according to IDC.

"We don't see [Windows RT] making traction at all," said IDC program manager Ryan Reith in an e-mail. "The bigger problem is hardware partners are beginning to shy away from the platform as they don't see consumer demand or its fit in the industry."

As for tablets running Windows 8, Reith is more optimistic. "As we have said all along, uptake for Windows 8 will be slow but eventually it will stick," he said, acknowledging the latest quarterly report is unlikely to silence critics. "Windows 8 is slowly making progress but it's a huge focus point for the industry and media with a very large target on its back, so I'm not quite sure it has come even close to meetings critics' needs."

Meanwhile, Microsoft over the weekend quietly cut the price of its Surface Pro tablets by $100, bringing it down to $799 for a system configured with 64 GB of storage and $899 for a 128 GB version. The price cut does not extend to the price of the keyboards, which can add $129 (for the Type version).

In a statement to The Verge, a Microsoft spokesperson said the Surface Pro price cut applies between Aug. 4 and Aug. 29, and is valid for customers in the United States, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"We've been seeing great worldwide success with Surface RT pricing and keyboard-cover promotions over the past several months and are proud to offer Surface Pro at more affordable prices starting today," the spokesperson told The Verge.

So far, Microsoft has earned $853 million in revenue from sales of the Surface, according to its most recent 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That is just shy of the $900 million charge due to extra Surface RT inventory that Microsoft reported in its Q4 earnings report.

About the Authors

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.