Tablet wars: Android trumps Apple iOS while Windows struggles

Google’s Android operating system is winning the battle for tablet dominance so far this year, surpassing Apple’s iOS to feature on over half of the slates shipped in the first quarter of 2013.

Figures released by IDC reveal that 27.8 million Android tablets have already been sold which represents a huge 247.5 per cent year-over-year growth for the software in this format. Of course, the OS has the advantage of featuring on a multitude of devices compared to the iPad-only iOS, but Apple will no doubt be casting an envious glance at Android’s 56.5 per cent market share.

The Cupertino firm still managed to ship 19.5 million tablets to exceed forecasts of 18.7 million, and IDC reported a “sustained demand for the iPad mini” – the scaled-down slate helping to yield year-over-year tablet growth of 65.3 per cent for Apple.

The story is decidedly bleaker for Microsoft however, with its hardware venture, the Surface tablet, failing to make significant inroads in the market. The device accounted for just 1.8 per cent of the first quarter shipments, while the new Windows RT OS featured on just 0.4 per cent of tablets sold.

All finishing above Microsoft on tablet market share so far in 2013 are fourth placed Amazon thanks to its growing Kindle Fire line; Asus in third following sustained popularity of the Nexus 7, Samsung in second with its Galaxy line, and Apple leading the way with its ubiquitous iPad.

Reports have suggested Microsoft is planning to improve its fortunes with new smaller form-factor tablets akin to the iPad mini and Nexus 7, but IDC experts believe the company needs look at other areas of its strategy.

"Recent rumours have circulated about the possibility of smaller screen Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets hitting the market. However, the notion that this will be the saving grace is flawed,” said Ryan Reith, Program Manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker project.

“Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7-8 inch devices, but Microsoft's larger challenges centre 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."