Microsoft Windows to power 4 percent of tablet market in 2012: Gartner

Gartner's latest tablet prediction data is out. In spite of Windows 8's imminent arrival, Microsoft and its OEM partners don't fare well.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Gartner Group is predicting Microsoft will control only four percent of the worldwide tablet market in 2012, trailing Apple and Google as a distant third player in the space.

Gartner estimates that Apple will sell 73 million tablets worldwide in 2012, and Android OEMs another 38 million. Tablet makers running Windows will sell 4.8 million devices, Gartner estimated in new data released this week. Gartner is expecting 119 million tablets to be sold worldwide in total this year.

It's not just because Windows 8, Microsoft's first truly touch-centric, tablet-optimized operating system, isn't expected to launch until later this fall that Gartner is bearish on Microsoft. Even by 2016, Gartner expects Microsoft's tablet share to hit only 11.8 percent, despite the fact that enterprise sales of tablets should be a major factor by that time. Gartner's take seems to be that Microsoft's offering won't appeal to consumers, who still will be the dominant customer audience for tablets.

TechCrunch has these new Gartner numbers and more in its post. Here's the Gartner tablet chart from their post:

I've said before and I'll say again that I'm increasingly convinced that Microsoft is going the Windows Phone route with Windows 8. By that, I mean Microsoft seems to be far more interested -- at least initially -- in building and selling a product that is aimed at consumers, rather than business users.

Yes, Windows 8 tablets running x86/x64 chips will be able to run existing Windows apps on the Desktop. But the Metro-style interface and new Windows app store -- the most noticeable new elements of Windows 8 -- so far seem to appeal a lot more to consumers than power users or business users who've dabbled with the Developer and Consumer previews of Microsoft's next-generation operating system.

What's your take? Do you agree with those like my ZDNet colleague James Kendrick who see the tablet market as basically the iPad market? Or do you think Gartner's off base here?

Update: I didn't notice this myself, but one of my Twitter buds (@mcakins) noted that Gartner mysteriously has Windows' share of the tablet OS market at 0 for 2011. They haven't been barn burners, but Windows tablets do exist already. I've asked Gartner for comment on what's behind its current 0 percent share claim for Windows tablets. No word back yet.

Gartner Research VP Carolina Milanesi responded with the following reason for the 0 percent:

"We differentiate media tablets from tablets PC and windows 7 would fall under tablet PCs. We feel that media tablets are a different kind of tablet where not just form factor but the richness of the ecosystem of apps is part of the value proposition to users. Windows 7 was not an OS optimised for tablets."

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