It's the Tablet's World Now and Microsoft Wasn't Invited

Apple is the single largest PC maker, according to data from Canalys, topping companies such as Lenovo, HP, and Samsung. To find the single largest PC maker, Canalys combined desktop and laptop figures with tablets and those tablets are about to start outselling other computers, and that's a big problem for Microsoft.

Tablets are taking over, and Microsoft didn't get invited to the gameTablets are taking over, and Microsoft didn't get invited to the game

Canalys said Apple shipped 18.6 million computer devices during the June quarter while Lenovo shipped 14.1 million, HP shipped 12.7 million, Samsung shipped 10.8 million, and Dell shipped 9.4 million units. Microsoft's tablet sales were lumped into "Other."

Desktops and laptops make up about 20 percent of Apple's total computer sales, leaving the rest to the iPad lineup. That figure underscores Canalys expectations that tablets will outsell other PCs by the end of this year, and right now those tablets are running Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS, not Microsoft's Windows.

Leaving Microsoft on the outside isn't going to hurt the tech giant -- at least not yet. As tablet sales continue to climb while desktop and laptop PC sales drop, however, Microsoft will start to feel the pressure to make a better stand in the tablet market. So far, Microsoft hasn't been able to successfully impact the tablet space, even with its own Surface devices.

In hopes of boosting its presence in the tablet market, Microsoft introduced its Surface tablets less than a year ago. The company hyped Windows app compatibility, ports that offer expandability not available on Apple's iPad and iPad mini, a bigger touch screen, and a removable keyboard. In essence, Microsoft created an ultra-thin Windows PC that just happens to look like a tablet.

Consumers didn't buy into Microsoft's tablet, and with three quarters of sales under its belt, the company has already a US$900 million write down, and only $853 million in tablet sales. Those sales include all three quarters the Suface has been available, by the way. In comparison, Apple sells the same amount in iPads in just under two weeks.

With the tablet market going to Apple and Android, Microsoft needs to find a way to draw consumers to Windows on tablets and convince shoppers that its operating system has a place beyond conventional PCs. Shoppers spending habits show they see the iPad and some Android devices as the way to go in the tablet market and so far aren't showing any significant interest in Windows.

Microsoft has an in with the mobile market thanks to smartphones running Windows, and if it can figure out how to leverage that into tablet sales, Surface and other Windows-based tablets might be able to get a foothold. Part of Microsoft's problem is that it is presenting Windows-based tablets as do-it-all devices, instead of showing the focused areas where they offer benefits over laptops. Apple, on the other hand, presents the iPad and iPad mini as easy to use tablets that aren't necessarily PC replacements, and that makes it much easier for shoppers to see why they want one.

Microsoft is a huge company and its Windows operating systems are on devices from an amazingly long list of companies, so don't expect to see it shutting down and giving back all the money to shareholders any time soon -- or at all. With the computer market shifting from traditional PCs to tablets, however, Microsoft needs to find a way to successfully play in that game soon or face missing out while watching its customers move on into the mobile space.