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Windows 8 tablet sales: not terrible so far

In the first quarter of 2013, Windows 8 and RT devices accounted for 7.5 percent of the tablet market, with 3 million units shipped.

Although Microsoft is staying mum about Windows 8 tablet sales, research firm Strategy Analytics has some slightly encouraging news.

In the first quarter of 2013, Windows 8 and RT devices accounted for 7.5 percent of the tablet market, with 3 million units shipped. That's up from 0 percent a year earlier, before Windows-based tablets were feasible.

Granted, 7.5 percent of the market isn't a huge number.

In a statement to CNet, Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Shah referred to the Windows tablet market as a "niche," set back by "limited distribution, a shortage of top tier apps, and confusion in the market." Clearly, Microsoft still has work to do.

But it's also not a terrible number considering what the composition of the tablet market.

Android now accounts for 43.4 percent of the market according to Strategy Analytics, but the vast majority of those tablets are small, low-cost devices such as Amazon's Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble's Nook tablets, and Google's Nexus 7.

Small-tablet wars

Windows 8 isn't competing with those devices right now. Microsoft's answer to the small tablet market will come later this year, when smaller Windows 8 tablets and cheap touch-enabled notebooks arrive.

That leaves the large tablet market, in which Apple's full-sized iPad is the only real competition.

Apple sold 19.5 million iPads in the first quarter--that includes both the regular iPad and the iPad Mini, but the exact sales split isn't clear--while Windows tablet makers shipped 3 million units. Things get a little tricky here because Strategy Analytics is comparing end-user sales to shipments, but it still looks like a decent first effort for Microsoft's operating system.

It's only going to get better from here. With the coming improvements to Windows, and better hardware from PC makers, Windows tablets are going to look a lot more interesting toward the end of the year. And as small tablets become the ideal devices for consumption, that leaves room for larger Windows tablets and hybrids offer more productivity options.

To be clear, the numbers aren't anything for Microsoft to brag about, which may explain why the company isn't doing any bragging. But as an answer to the larger tablet market and declining PC sales, Windows 8 is off to a decent start.


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