Microsoft made a big bet on tablets last year, releasing its own hardware and tailoring Windows 8 / RT for the rising form factor. So how has the company fared so far? According to data from research firm Strategy Analytics, three million Windows-based tablets shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2013, taking Microsoft from a paltry 1.6% global market share in Q3 2012 to 7.5% in the first quarter of this year.

The report notes that very limited distribution, a shortage of top tier apps, and confusion in the market are all holding back shipments for Microsoft and its partners. Still, that’s a notable gain and it would have equated to an even bigger share of the market were it not for the fact that overall branded tablet shipments also jumped 117% year on year, going from 18.7 million units a year ago to 40.6 million last quarter.

Global Branded Tablet OS Marketshare %

Operating System Q1 2012 Q1 2013
iOS 63.1% 48.2%
Android 34.2% 43.4%
Windows 0.0 7.5%
Others 2.7% 1.0%
Total 100% 100%
Growth Y-o-Y 146% 117%

Apple still dominates the market, but Android is closing in. Whereas one year ago their market share stood at 63.1% and 34.2%, respectively, last quarter the gap got narrower at 48.2% and 43.4%. When adding “white-box” tablets produced by ODMs and sold into the mix, Android’s tablet market actually increases to 52%, as the bulk of the white-box tablets are low budget Android models aimed at a different market than branded tablets.

Strategy Analytics report summary doesn’t include a breakdown by vendor but looking at other sources we can get a pretty good idea about who is making steady progress in the market.

Apple in particular yesterday reported it sold 19.5 million iPad last quarter, up from 11.8 million last year. Meanwhile, Q4 2012 data from IDC suggests Samsung is the leading Android tablet vendor with 7.9 million tablets shipped, followed by Amazon and Asus at 6 million and 3.1 million each.

Global Branded Tablet OS Shipments (Millions of Units)

Operating System Q1 2012 Q1 2013
iOS 11.8 19.5
Android 6.4 17.6
Windows 0.0 3.0
Others 0.5 0.4
Total 18.7 40.6