Lookout Apple, Here Comes Microsoft: Surface Tablets Break Into Top 5

This story has been corrected to reflect Microsoft's correct first-quarter market share per IDC data.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Look who made it into the top tier of tablets. Microsoft ( MSFT) that's who. Micorsoft's surface devices can now be found on the latest "top-5" list of the world's leading tablet manufacturers.

It's unlike that Apple ( AAPL), the world's largest technology company, Microsoft is making some real progress in an area where Bill Gates's one-time start-up has had little traction.

According to IDC's first quarter numbers, total tablet shipments increased 142% to 49.2 million units compared to the same period a year ago. Microsoft shipped 900,000 units, owning 1.8% of the market. Of course, Apple and Samsung aren't worried as they continue to lead the industry by a wide margin.

Apple in the first quarter shipped 19.5 million iPads (large and small) and now controls nearly 40% of tablet industry. Samsung was second with a nearly 18 percent share after shipping 8.8 million units. Asus was third after reporting 2.7 million units (5.5%) while Amazon ( AMZN) took the fourth slot with 1.8 million Kindle tablets (3.7%).

Officially, Microsoft is now the fifth largest shipper of tablets. They reportedly moved 900,000 Surface devices. That gives them just less than one percent of the total market share.

But, those numbers don't tell the whole story. While Microsoft shipped nearly a million units, most were the new Windows 8 models that started early moving early in the year. We can figure this out by checking the list measuring shipments by operating systems.

In this case, devices running Google's ( GOOG) Android software come out on top, not surprising considering that Samsung, Asus, Amazon and others tablet makers are powered by Android software. A total of 28.7 million Android tablets shipped in 1Q/2013. That's a 56.5% market share. Apple iOS tablets totaled 19.5 million units with a 39.6% share.

When it comes to third and fourth place Windows RT continues to be a major disappointment. Because the latest numbers are broken out by operating systems we see that 1.8 million (3.3%) Windows 8 tablets shipped in the first quarter. But, only 200,000 thousand Windows RT tablets made it out the door. That translates into a measly 0.4% share - only slightly better than fifth place"Others" with 100,000 units (0.2%) shipped.

IDC considers all LCD-based slate devices with screens between 7 and 16 inches as tablets, regardless of whether or not they include a removable keyboard (such as Microsoft Surface models).

Microsoft was slipping 0.2% to $32.66. Shares have gained 22% this year compared the Nasdaq Composite index which had added 10%.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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