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Five-Year Forecast Shows Windows Tablets Lagging in Market

Windows 8 tablets are expected to perform much better than their Windows RT counterparts.

Android and iOS-based tablets will continue to rule the market for the seeable future, keeping Windows-based tablets marginalized, says a research group.

In even gloomier news for Microsoft, IDC predicts that Windows RT tablets -- those using ARM processors and unable to run legacy Windows applications -- won't even capture 3 percent of the market.

A revised IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker report puts some numbers behind that forecast. The Google-fostered Android OS currently leads the tablet pack in 2013 with 48.8 percent market share, closely followed by Apple's iOS-based tablets with 46.0 percent of the market.

In notable contrast, IDC measured Windows tablets (defined as a combination of Windows 7 plus Windows 8 devices) as having a 2.8 percent market share in 2013. Windows RT tablets had just a 1.9 percent market share in 2013.

Despite Microsoft's single-digit showing in the tablet market this year, IDC is predicting a higher compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for Windows 8 and Windows RT OSes compared with the competition in the near future. Windows on tablets will grow to 7.4 percent of the market by the end of 2017 (a 48.8 percent CAGR) while Windows RT on tablets will hit 2.7 percent of the market at that same time (a 27.9 percent CAGR).

Meanwhile, Android and iOS will maintain their leads throughout that five-year time span. By the end of 2017, Android will have 46.0 percent of the tablet market (CAGR of 14.8 percent), while iOS will have 43.5 percent (CAGR of 15.0 percent), according to IDC estimates.

Microsoft formally launched Windows 8 and Windows RT on October 26, 2012. That's not a lot of time on the market, but Tom Mainelli, IDC research director for tablets, nevertheless faulted Microsoft's execution.

"Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far," Mainelli said, in a released statement. "Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8. Such a focus could drive better share growth in the tablet category down the road."

IDC expects that manufacturer use of smaller screens for tablets will bolster the tablet market this year to 190.9 million devices. Tablet shipments will increase to 350 million devices by year's end 2017.

The appearance of lower cost tablets will eventually kill off the market for electronic reader devices. The e-reader market will be in "permanent decline" starting in 2015, IDC predicted.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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