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Redmond in at No. 5, wobbly Apple clings to top spot

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The latest numbers are in from the battle for global tablet market dominance - and the questions everyone is asking are: Is Apple holding on? Has Microsoft got anywhere yet? Where's Amazon? Has Android crushed everything into tablet paste?

The good news for Microsoft is that Surface broke into the ranks of the top five selling slabs in Q1 but the bad news is that it still remains a bit part player in a highly fragmented sector.

Some 900,000 RT and Pro devices were shipped in the quarter estimates IDC, giving Redmond a 1.8 per cent share of the 49.2 million devices sold globally in a market that grew 142.4 per cent.

Channel bullyboy Apple led the global sales stakes with 19.5 million iPads sold, but its growth slowed to 65.3 per cent meaning market share dived to 39.6 per cent, from 58.1 per cent a year earlier.

"Sustained demand for the iPad mini and increasingly strong commercial shipments led to a better-than expected first quarter for Apple," said Tom Mainelli, IDC research bod.

IDC had forecast iPad shipments of 18.7 million but Apple moved the launch of the latest stroker to Q4 heading off the seasonal Q1 slowdown when fanbois usually freeze purchases until March - when a shiny new slab is typically released.

In contrast, mighty chaebol Samsung flogged 8.8 million fondlers up from 2.3 million a year ago, to capture nearly 18 per cent share of sales.

Taiwanese giant Asus crossed the finishing line for Q1 with 2.7 million sales up from 600,000 a year earlier - taking its market share to 5.5 per cent. Asus produces Google's Nexus 7 device and this contributed to its shipments.

Amazon dropped to fourth with unit sales of 1.8 million Kindle Fire slabs but was followed closely by Microsoft.

The Surface RT debuted last October at the launch of Windows 8: however Microsoft chose to bypass the channel initially, though it latterly performed a U-turn when sales slumped.

RT was available in 13 countries at last count.

The Pro was pushed out to US and Canadian buyers in February but will not arrive in the UK and other countries until the end of May.

IDC said many of the Surface units shipped in the quarter were of the Pro variety, some 700,000 units, which is not bad given the relatively recent launch.

Microsoft has not opened up on Surface sales but research firm Canalys estimated that 722,000 RT slabs were shipped in Q1 and sources close to Microsoft suggested a total of 1.5 million devices had been sold since launch.

What is perhaps more worrying to Microsoft - after all Surface was supposed to only be a design reference point showcasing Windows 8 - is the slow pace of the Windows OS in OEM hardware.

According to estimates from IDC, 27.8 million devices shipped on Android, 19.5 million on iOS, 1.6 million on Windows and 200,000 on RT - indicating that RT may be collapsing.

IDC said that "beyond the Surface products, Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets continued to struggle to gain traction in the market".

Updated A Microsoft spokeswoman said:

“The response to Surface from customers has been exciting to see. Given growing demand, we’ve increased production and expanded distribution to additional retail partners. We look forward to more customers getting hands-on time with the product as we continue to expand its availability. With regard to specific sales numbers, we have nothing to share."

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