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A new report on the global tablet market shows Microsoft Windows tablets making modest gains in the second quarter, clawing their way back to 4.5 percent market share with 2.3 million units shipped worldwide, including Microsoft Surface and third-party Windows tablets.

surfaceblackBut Android tablets are soaring, reaching a whopping 67 percent market share with 34.6 million units shipped, according to the report today by the Strategy Analytics research firm. Apple fell to 28 percent of the market with 14.6 million iPads shipped during the same period, down from 17 million units a year earlier.

It’s more evidence of how Android and iOS are redefining the computer market, defined broadly. It’s a far cry from the simpler time when Windows dominated the world of personal computers. See this story today by Nick Wingfield of the New York Times for more on the trend.

Strategy Analytics describes Microsoft’s tablet market share as “niche.” Microsoft recently cut the price of the Surface RT by $150, taking a $900 million charge against earnings and acknowledging that sales of the homegrown tablet haven’t lived up to expectations.

“There may be an uptick in Windows RT shipments in Q3 following savage price cuts by all the partners still involved in the RT Market,” Strategy Analytics says in its report. “Microsoft has reduced prices by $150 and other vendors even more; they are still not cheap, but are much more where they should be to compete.  The shortage of apps continues to be a problem, with seemingly little incentive for developers to work on the platform.”

Meanwhile, as noted by The Next Web, projections separately released today by the NPD Group research firm show why this market is so important for Microsoft. Tablet shipments overall are expected to soar over the next four years, reaching nearly 600 million units by 2017 and dwarfing the shipments of traditional notebook computers, many of which are running Windows today.

Here’s the NPD DisplaySearch chart showing the firm’s projections …

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