Analyst firm IDC sees Windows-based tablets winning significant market share away from both Android and iOS eventually, but says it won't happen for another several years yet.
According to the latest figures from the company's Worldwide Tablet Tracker, sales of fondleslabs running Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows RT will only account for 2.9 per cent of the market in 2012, and they aren't expected to hit the 10 per cent mark until 2016.
The new IDC estimates come after widespread reports of slow sales for Windows devices of all kinds, which many analysts have chalked up to an overall downturn in the PC market.
A sluggish market doesn't seem to be a problem for tablet makers, however, because according to IDC, sales of all manner of slabs are accelerating. The company has actually increased its estimate of fondleslab sales for 2012 to 122.3 million units, up from its original forecast of 117.1 million units.
It also boosted its 2013 forecast to 172.4 million units sold, and it says it expect the upward trend to continue throughout the coming years, reaching 282.7 million units by 2016 – more than double the current figure.
"Android tablets are gaining traction in the market thanks to solid products from Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others," said IDC research director Tom Mainelli. "And Apple's November iPad Mini launch, along with its surprise refresh of the full-sized iPad, positions the company well for a strong holiday season."
As it stands, IDC sees Android and iOS virtually neck-and-neck for market share, with Apple expected to retain an advantage of around 10 per cent through 2016.
So where does that leave Microsoft? In not such hot shape, if IDC's figures are to be believed. The company says it expects Windows-based tablets to whittle 3 per cent off of Android's market share and around 4 per cent of Apple's, but not for another four years.
If those estimates prove prophetic, it will be bad news for Microsoft. For one thing, it means the current generation of Windows tablets will essentially be flops. Redmond usually ships a new version of Windows more often than once every four years, so who knows what a Windows fondleslab will even look like in 2016?
And then there's that pesky sales trend we keep hearing about, where analysts predict users will stop buying traditional PCs and laptops as they turn to tablets for more of their general computing needs.
In July, NPD DisplaySearch predicted that device vendors would actually sell more fondleslabs than traditional notebooks beginning in 2016. If that turns out to be true and tablets really are the future of client computing, Microsoft had better hope IDC's 10.3 per cent market share estimate is way off. ®