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Half a million Microsoft Surface tablets may be gathering dust on shop shelves, it has been claimed.

Market watcher IHS iSuppli reckons Microsoft shipped 1.25 million Surface tablets into the resale channel during Q4 2012. However, only 55 to 60 per cent of those Windows RT-based devices were purchased by punters.

That means there were 500,000 to 562,500 Surface tablets awaiting sale to consumers at the end of the quarter.

Separately, IDC, another market watcher, said it calculates some 52.5 million tablets shipped from vendors during Q4. That would leave Microsoft with a market share of no more than 2.4 per cent, if the IDC and iSuppli estimates are correct.

They can't both be right, though. IDC reckons Microsoft shipped just 900,000 Surfaces into the IT distribution channel, 28 per cent fewer than iSuppli suggested Redmond had released. IDC’s estimate puts Microsoft’s market share at 1.7 per cent, just behind Barnes & Noble’s 1.9 per cent.

“Reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best,” was how IDC’s Ryan Reith put it. Redmond’s mistake: releasing a large-size tablet just as world+dog were realising they want smaller ones.

IDC puts Apple’s share at 43.6 per cent, ahead of Samsung (15.1 per cent), Amazon (11.5 per cent), Asus (5.8 per cent) and B&N.

Asus's share was lifted by shipments of Google’s Nexus 7 tables, which it manufactures and which were heavily promoted by the internet advertising giant in the run-up to Christmas. Look at the year-on-year change: 600,000 Asus tablets shipped in Q4 2011, leaping to 3.1 million units in Q4 2012.

Only Samsung came close to that 402.5 per cent growth - the Korean company’s shipments jumped 263 per cent year on year, rising from 2.2 million to 7.9 million. Apple’s shipments grew a more modest 48.1 per cent, rising from 15.1 million units to 22.9 million. Amazon’s shipments rose less impressively, going from 4.7 million to 6.0 million, an increase of 26.8 per cent.

B&N was the only top-five player showing a decline: shipments slipped 27.7 per cent year on year, falling from 1.4 million units in Q4 2011 to 1.0 million in Q4 2012, though its market share jumped sequentially, from 0.7 per cent in Q3 2012.

Amazon’s share rose sequentially too, from 8.3 per cent, but Apple’s was down (from 46.4 per cent) as was that of Asus (from 7.8 per cent), and Samsung saw no change quarter on quarter. ®

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