Surface catapults Microsoft into the top-five tablet makers

After less than six months in the tablet market, Microsoft is now one of the top five tablet manufacturers, according to the latest statistics from IDC.

Microsoft shipped 900,000 tablets in Q1, giving it 1.9 percent market share. That puts it right behind Amazon, which has been in the tablet (as opposed to e-reader) market for about a year and a half, since the Kindle Fire was first released in late 2011. 

If you believe the tablet market is just getting started, then that's extremely good news for Microsoft's chances, although IDC analyst Ryan Reith warns that Microsoft has to offer lower-cost tablets -- not just tablets with smaller screens -- and improve its consumer messaging. 

The traditional big PC OEMs -- Dell, Lenovo, or HP -- are not in the top five, and IDC said that total Windows 8 and Windows RT sales were only 1.8 million during the quarter. In other words, Microsoft is selling as many Windows tablets as all other vendors combined. The statistics paint an inaccurately grim picture, though, because IDC does not count touch-screen convertibles as tablets. (Basically, if the device comes with a keyboard, it's a PC. I'd argue that these definitions are silly and ignore the big changes in the PC market, but that's how IDC counts today.)

Apple still dominates the tablet market overall, with 19.5 million units shipped -- more than twice as many as number-two Samsung. ASUS is also growing fast, thanks to its manufacture of the Google Nexus tablet.

Here's the full chart from IDC. Unit sales are in millions.

Vendor Q1'13 Units Q1'13 Market Share Q1'12 Units Q1'12 Market Share Growth
Apple 19.5 39.6% 11.8 58.1% 65.3%
Samsung 8.8 17.9% 2.3 11.3% 282.6%
ASUS 2.7 5.5% 0.6 3.1% 350.0%
Amazon 1.8 3.7% 0.7 3.6% 157.1%
Microsoft 0.9 1.8% N/A N/A N/A
Total 49.2 100% 20.3 100% 142.4%
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