ABI Research: Will Windows Popularity Help Microsoft Surface Tablet?

By Jessica Binns, Contributing Editor — June 20, 2012

Microsoft may face an uphill battle by throwing its hat into the mobile computing tablet ring:

  • Windows is expected to account for only 1.3 percent of media tablet shipments in 2012.
  • The company is introducing a fragmented OS strategy with Windows RT and Windows 8 (something Google has been chastised for by developers of the Android OS).
  • It assumes that the popularity of Windows for PCs is a draw for Windows on tablets.
ABI Research expects Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows RT-based tablets to account for only 1.3 percent of 2012 global shipments; having little impact on the market this year. This is due to lack of adoption for Windows 7, but primarily due to the late-in-year launches of Windows RT and Windows 8 operating systems (estimated to become commercially available in select devices starting in October 2012).

Microsoft is starting with a two-prong device strategy: a Windows RT-based ARM tablet powered by an NVIDIA applications processor, and a Windows 8 Pro tablet based on Intel's x86 architecture. Each will appeal to a different audience type, offer different features and functionality, and be available for different price points. In 2011, 98 percent of all media tablets were based on ARM processor architecture. ABI Research predicts a similar dominance for ARM over Intel in 2012 primarily due to the availability of device OEMs introducing first Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro tablets powered by Intel no sooner than October 2012.

The obvious "low hanging" market opportunity for Microsoft's Surface tablets is with business buyers that have an installed base of Windows PCs. Is Microsoft suggesting that organizations will make the "post-PC era" move toward a mobile computing device and ditch traditional desktop and clamshell form-factors, or is the company hoping that employees will gain access to multiple devices? So far, businesses have been opposed to buying incremental computing assets for users due to the support costs.

ABI Research's "Media Tablet Market Share Tracker" provides quarterly and annual historical vendor market share. It is part of ABI Research's Tablets, Netbooks & Mobile CE Research Service.

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