Microsoft reportedly hopes to push Apple's worldwide iPad market share under 50 percent by the middle of 2013 with Windows 8-based tablets, Digitimes reports today, citing unnamed sources.
Microsoft is currently helping its many third-party vendors, including Dell, HP, and Acer, get their tablets out the door this year. Digitimes' sources say as many as 32 Windows 8-based tablets could launch by the end of 2012.
Apple has been the dominant force in the tablet market over the last couple of years. Even though it faces a host of Android-based devices, including the popular Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple owns about 62 percent of the tablet space, according to a February report from TrendForce. A subsequent report from iSuppli said Apple should hold about 61 percent of the tablet space by the end of the year.
Although Microsoft reportedly hopes to see that figure inch lower by the time the year is up, Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore doesn't necessarily believe it can happen. He sees both Google and Microsoft having trouble matching the iPad's perceived value.
"We believe competitors (Android and Windows) will have trouble matching the price-performance specs of the current iPad product lineup and [Apple] should continue to dominate the category," Whitmore told investors in March. "Windows 8 is receiving mixed reviews and Android (is) in disarray."
Another complicating factor: the possibility that Apple may launch a long-rumored iPad Mini this year. That device, according to a report earlier this week from Chinese portal Netease, will feature a smaller footprint than Apple's current iPad, and could be priced at $249 to $299.
More important, the site cited sources who said that Apple is planning to ship 6 million iPad Minis in the third quarter -- a prospect that could dramatically increase the company's sales and market share.
Apple, of course, isn't invincible. In late 2010, the company owned 87 percent of the tablet market, according to research firm IDC. That's a good indication of how even middling competition can dilute its market share, even if those rivals can't match the iPad's sales. Whether Windows 8 can do the same, though, is far from clear.