Once considered a lost cause in the tablet market, Microsoft's Windows will take market share from Apple's iOS and Google's Android in the coming years, according to IDC.
Android and iOS are the top two OSes for tablets, with 67.3 percent and 27.6 percent share, respectively, of the 229.7 million units shipped in 2014. Windows had just a 5.1 percent market share, according to research released by IDC on Thursday.
But by 2019, Windows will have 14.1 percent market share, and the share of Android and iOS will gradually fall to 62.9 percent and 23 percent respectively. Tablet shipments in 2019 will total 269.4 million, indicating slow growth over the coming years, IDC said.
The gradual growth of Windows may start with Windows 10, which will reach tablets later this year, said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets at IDC.
After four years of rapid expansion, tablet market growth slowed down in 2014. But even when the tablet market grew at a fast rate through 2012 and 2013, Microsoft's Windows 8 and RT operating systems didn't do well as consumers opted for devices running Android and iOS.
Microsoft has made some critical changes to the user interface of Windows 10 that could make the OS more appealing to tablet and PC users. The company is also trying to bring program compatibility across different editions of Windows 10, which was a problem with the mobile and PC versions of Windows 8.
Outside of a quarter or two when Apple started shipping new iPads, the company's tablet shipments have been declining for more than a year now. Apple last month reported its iPad shipments were 21.42 million units in the first fiscal quarter, down from 26 million units in the same quarter the previous year. Low-priced tablets helped Android gain market share on iOS, but Microsoft last year started pushing Windows 8.1 into low-cost tablets like the Hewlett-Packard Stream 7 and 8.
IDC counts 2-in-1 devices, which are tablets sold with keyboard attachments, in its numbers. Users are also gradually moving from old-school laptops to hybrids, which are able to provide a full laptop experience on a smaller screen.
There is also a growing demand for a user and productivity experience that is consistent across devices, Bouchard said.
That thought was also shared by PC maker Acer, which is tilting toward pushing Windows on smartphones, tablets and PCs. Until now, the company put Windows and Android on tablets and PCs, and Android on smartphones. The company says Windows is the only OS that can be put across all devices, which could make file and content sharing easier.
Also, the tablet market has flattened with the emergence of phablets, which are 6- and some 7-inch devices that can handle cellular connectivity and phone calls. More users want voice capabilities in their devices, and prefer phablets over traditional tablets, according to IDC. Phablets are not counted as tablets by IDC.
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