Global shipments of tablets during the first quarter of the year reached a record of 40.6 million units. That's up an incredible 117% from the first quarter of 2012, which saw shipments of just 18.7 million units.
Apple sold a total of 19.5 million iPads during the first quarter of the year, representing a mix of full-sized iPads and iPad Minis. (Apple didn't provide a breakdown of its individual tablet sales.) That gave Apple a leading position with 48.2% of the tablet market. That's down markedly, however, from the 63.1% of the tablet market Apple held a year ago. Those fifteen percentage points went mostly to Android tablets, but also to Windows-based tablets.
Sales of all Android-branded tablets combined reached 17.6 million units during the first quarter. That includes devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Google Nexus 7 and others. Those 17.6 million tablets gave Android 43.4% of the tablet market. A year ago, Android controlled only 34.2% of the tablet market with sales of 6.4 million units. Android saw year-over-year growth of 177%. The gap between the iPad and Android tablets spanned 28.9 percentage points during Q1 2012, and now it only spans 4.8.
[ Will updated hardware reverse Apple's downward slide? Read Apple CEO Promises Fresh Product Crop. ]
Apple has been ceding tablet market share to Google since the first Android tablets hit the market, so these numbers aren't all that surprising. Microsoft's entry into the market with devices such as the Surface and Surface Pro, however, had a noticeable effect, too.
A year ago, Microsoft essentially contributed nothing to tablet sales. The Surface and Surface Pro together managed to take 7.5% of the tablet market during the first quarter of 2013 with shipments of about 3 million units. That's a solid entry for Microsoft, despite its tablets' high-cost and less-than-stellar reviews. The Surface runs Windows RT and retails for $499, while the Surface Pro runs Windows 8 and costs a whopping $899 (nearly twice the cost of the entry-level, full-sized iPad).
Strategy Analytics refers to Microsoft's small portion of the tablet market as a "niche" thanks to "very limited distribution, a shortage of top tier apps and confusion in the market." Those points may be true, but it's not giving Microsoft the credit it deserves. The Surface and Surface Pro didn't reach the market until the last quarter of 2012 and midway through the first quarter of 2013, respectively. That means Microsoft went from 0% to 7.5% pretty quickly.
How Microsoft's tablets fare moving forward will depend on what it does with its two tablet operating systems and how it handles Win8. Microsoft also needs to drop the price of its high-end Surface Pro to something more competitive with the iPad and inexpensive Android tablets.
It's clear demand for tablets, whether they're from Apple, Google or Microsoft, continues to be strong.