Windows' share of the tablet market grew slightly in the second quarter as shipments also ticked up in the face of a slowdown by tablets overall, researcher IDC said today.
But the Redmond, Wash. company's innovative Surface line contributed just a fraction of that tally, showing just how difficult a task Microsoft has set for itself in transforming into a device builder and seller.
[ Windows 8 left you blue? Then check out Windows Red, InfoWorld's plan to fix Microsoft's contested OS. | Microsoft's new direction, the touch interface for tablet and desktop apps, the transition from Windows 7 -- InfoWorld covers all this and more in the Windows 8 Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay atop key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
"The [OEM] partners who have been supporting Windows 8 continue to do so, which is good, and they're starting to make some traction," said Ryan Reith, an IDC analyst on the team that tracks tablet shipments. "But I would not call Surface a success by any means."
While all tablet shipments declined about 8 percent in the second quarter compared to the first, those powered by Windows grew by 11 percent over the same stretch, according to IDC estimates released Monday.
Shipments of Windows tablets -- primarily Windows 8 but also a smattering of Windows RT -- climbed from 1.8 million in the first quarter to 2 million in the second. That brought Windows tablets' share of the global market up to 4.5 percent from the 3.7 percent of the first quarter.
The big winners in the Windows tablet space were largely the OEMs familiar to PC buyers, said Reith: Acer, Asus, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, and Samsung. "HP had a good quarter with [Windows] tablets," he said. "Dell shipped around 120,000, which is growth for them, although it's such a small number compared to their traditional PC business."
Microsoft shipped about 300,000 Surface devices in the quarter -- the Windows 8- and Intel-powered Surface Pro and the Windows RT- and ARM-reliant Surface RT -- to account for about 15 percent of the Windows total. "Microsoft's portion was relatively small," noted Reith, who also cautioned that because IDC tracks shipments -- tablets that come off factory lines -- actual sales were undoubtedly smaller than that. "We're pretty certain the shipment numbers are high[er] than sell-through."
IDC estimated that Microsoft has shipped approximately 2.1 million Surface tablets of all kinds since the October 2012 debut of the Surface RT.
By comparison, Apple shipped nearly 57 million iPads in the last three quarters.
Microsoft has struggled to keep Surface afloat. Last month, the company wrote off $900 million to account for the steep discounts on the Surface RT needed to unload excess inventory. Days later, it revealed that all Surface sales had generated just $853 million, less than the charge against earnings, less than the increase in advertising attributed to Windows 8 and Surface.