A new report from the IDC research firm says that Microsoft’s Surface tablet, with its initially limited distribution, wasn’t able to crack the top 5 in worldwide tablet shipments in its debut quarter — registering 900,000 units, or less than 2 percent of the tablet market.

Another research firm, iSuppli, tells CNet News.com that actual sales of the Surface were considerably less than shipments.

The news comes as Android and the iPad lift overall tablet sales to new heights, now more than half the size of the traditional PC market.

Here’s the assessment from IDC’s Ryan Reith:

“There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul. However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company’s Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best, We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices. In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then ASPs on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes.”

Microsoft initially released the Surface with Windows RT in its own retail and online stores, before expanding distribution to major retailers. That version of the tablet, starting at $499 without a Surface keyboard, uses a power-saving ARM processor but doesn’t run legacy Windows applications.

The company is preparing to launch Surface for Windows Pro, which starts at $899 for a version without a keyboard. That version uses an Intel processor and runs legacy Windows apps.

Here is IDC’s ranking of the worldwide tablet market for the quarter.

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  • guest

    So when you let competitors have THREE YEARS uncontested to run away with the market and then finally enter with a product that is overpriced, launches with W8 but in fact runs Windows RT with its immature app library and lack of w32 support, includes a version of Office that wasn’t even designed for it, the few native apps it does include are generally of embarrassingly low quality, and initially limit distribution to just your handful of retail stores, that doesn’t work? Not even when you throw half a billion of advertising at it? Gee, that’s so surprising.
    And outside of Surface, where are the W8 tablets? There were almost none available over Xmas, and even now there are still very few choices and all are premium priced. Let’s face it, MS has lost both the smartphone and tablet markets that they pioneered and had a decade head start in. And they lost each in similar fashion: arrogantly underestimate the competition and overestimate the strength of their own position, get obliterated within months, take three years to respond, and even then reenter with a offering that doesn’t come close to being as compelling as it needs to be in order to succeed against the now mature offerings of competitors.

    Steve Ballmer promised partners this would be the “most epic year in MS history”. It’s quickly turning into the year when even MS’s staunchest supporters are forced to acknowledge that the company is in trouble.
    Fire Steve. Fire the board. Reject the Frank Shaw meme that repeated failure is acceptable and even desirable. Start over.

  • Dave

    Not having the Pro available initially also muted their likely reception. Enterprise buyers, particulalrly executives and frequent travelers, seeking a tablet that could replace a laptop seemed like the best, early adopter target market for the device. But I know many who did not think the RT was sufficient for their needs, could not connect to their enterprise networks, could not really replace laptops, so did not buy. And with the poor battery life of the Pro, I don’t know anyone who travels at all seriously considering it. Too bad because it is a great looking and well built device.

    • victor

      The enterprise buyer ship has sailed. They are looking at iPad and Android pads with a ton of apps for their needs. In case people haven’t noticed, work has become more casual. Gone are the days of presentations and proposals written in long hand. Microsoft is aiming at where the duck has been not where it is headed.

      • Nathan O

        No, there is still a whole in that market and no one has quite filled it yet. Microsoft had a chance but the surface RT suffers from a lack of …. OS cohesion is the best term I can think of and it can be off putting and confusing. Android has security issues and can be a nightmare for IT departments and Ipad aren’t as productive as they could be.

    • guest

      It’s Zune all over again. Too little, too late. By the time they field the product they should have started with, the brand will be unsalvageable.

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