Report: Microsoft gaining on Apple in federal tablet market

The Apple iPad, which has been crushingly dominant in the federal market segment, appears to be losing momentum as its competitor, Microsoft's Surface, gains ground, according to a new analysis.

The Apple iPad, which has been crushingly dominant in the federal market segment, appears to be losing momentum as its competitor, Microsoft’s Surface, gains ground, according to a new analysis.

The report, from business intelligence outfit Govini, says that Apple’s two-year head start helped it establish an early near-monopoly on federal sales. In fiscal year 2012, the report states, the iPad enjoyed 98 percent of the federal market share. By fiscal year 2015, the analysis indicates, that figure had slipped to 61 percent, with half that fall coming in 2015.

Microsoft increased its market share from virtually zero to 25 percent over the same timespan, while tablets using Google’s Android operating system grew to a third place position of 11 percent.


Share of the federal government’s tablet purchases, by operating systems (Source: Govini)


According to the report, the shift underscores the need for industry to rapidly cater products to the specific needs of customers.

“The first-to-market may have initial success, but maintaining market leadership requires adapting the product to meet customer needs,” the report states. “Windows tablets have eaten into iPad’s market share by rapidly integrating into PC-based workflows and adapting to customer requirements.”

The report found that tablet adoption does not appear to be driven by teleworking or bring your own device policies. Instead, it is strongest among agencies with field-deployed personnel: Just 10 agencies account for 88 percent of federal tablet spending, and the Department of Defense accounts for 59 percent alone, with the Army and Air Force dishing out $22 million and $15 million on iPads in fiscal 2015. The Department of Homeland Security, which has equipped agents of the Federal Emergency Management Agency with iPads, came in second at $17 million.

Agency culture and work conditions also have a large impact on tablet choice, the report found. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for instance, diverged from the bulk of DHS by electing to spend $1 million on Microsoft tablets, “illustrating that rugged tablets are in demand to operate in harsh conditions.”

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