Mobile Computing | Research

Apple Under Pressure in Tablet Market as Samsung, Microsoft, ASUS Head Upward

Even as Apple's iPad shipments surge worldwide, its dominance of the tablet market is less secure than it once was. In the first quarter of 2013, its market share dipped just below 40 percent, as Samsung, ASUS, and Microsoft moved upward.

According to preliminary data released by market research firm IDC earlier this month, Apple, which firmly remains the No. 1 tablet manufacturer in the world, shipped 19.5 million tablets in the first quarter — up 65 percent from 11.8 million units last year. That was about 800,000 more units than IDC had previously forecast for the company. But its market share declined steeply — down from 58.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 39.6 percent in 1Q 2013.

This is not the first time Apple's worldwide quarterly market share has dipped below 50 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2012, its share was 43.6 percent (down from 51.7 percent in 4Q 2011).

Meanwhile, iOS has begun 2013 in the No. 2 position in the tablet market, well behind Android. Total combined shipments of Android-based tablets worldwide came in at 27.8 million in the first quarter, a 247.5 percent surge from just 8 million units in 1Q 2012. That resulted in a 56.8 percent market share, up from 39.4 percent in 1Q 2012 when it lagged behind iOS.

The market share for iOS was, of course, the same as Apple's unit market share, 39.6 percent, down from 58.1 percent in 1Q 2012.

"Sustained demand for the iPad mini and increasingly strong commercial shipments led to a better-than expected first quarter for Apple," said Tom Mainelli, research director, tablets at IDC, in a prepared statement. "In addition, by moving the iPad launch to the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple seems to have avoided the typical first-quarter slowdown that traditionally occurred when consumers held off buying in January and February in anticipation of a new product launch in March."

No. 2 Samsung surged 282.6 percent in unit shipments in 1Q 2013, hitting 8.8 million units. Its market share was 17.9 percent, up from 11.3 percent in 1Q 2012.

ASUS came in third place with 2.7 million units, up 350 percent from 600,000 units in 1Q 2012.

Amazon came in fourth at 1.8 million units, an increase of 157.1 percent from 1Q 2012. It's market share was relatively unchanged (up 0.1 percentage point) at 3.7 percent.

And finally, for the first time, Microsoft rounded out the top 5, with 900,000 units shipped, capturing 1.8 percent of the market with its its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets.

According to IDC: "Many of those [Microsoft] units were Surface Pro, which the company started shipping to the [United States] and Canada in February. Microsoft has said that it is actively widening its regional distribution of both Surface RT and Surface Pro products. Beyond the Surface products, Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets continued to struggle to gain traction in the market. Total combined Windows 8 and Windows RT shipments across all vendors reached 1.8 million units."

"Recent rumors have circulated about the possibility of smaller screen Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets hitting the market," said Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker, also in a prepared statement. "However, the notion that this will be the saving grace is flawed. Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7- [to] 8-inch devices, but Microsoft's larger challenges center around consumer messaging and lower cost competition. If these challenges are addressed, along with the desired screen size variations, then we could see Microsoft make even further headway in 2013 and beyond."

Windows had a 3.3 percent market share in 1Q 2013, up from 1 percent in 1Q 2012. Windows RT had a 0.4 percent share, up from 0 percent last year.

Significantly, beyond the top 5, the total units shipped by all other manufacturers grew 216.3 percent in the first quarter of this year to reach 15.5 million units and to capture 31.5 percent of thre global market. That's up from 4.9 million units and a 24.9 percent market share in the same period last year.

All told, the global tablet market grew 142.4 percent from 1Q 2012 to 1Q 2013, reaching 49.2 million units.

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