Mar 01 2016

Microsoft Gains Ground in the Federal Tablet Market

According to a report from business intelligence firm Govini, just 10 federal agencies accounted for 88 percent of all federal tablet sales in fiscal year 2015.

Apple has long been thought of as the leader in the consumer tablet market, and for a long time it was in the federal IT market, too. However, according to a new study from business intelligence firm Govini, Microsoft is making inroads in the federal technology market as more agencies purchase tablets.

The firm’s 2016 Federal Tablet Market report reveals that 10 agencies make up the bulk of federal tablet spending: the Air Force, Army, Navy, Department of Homeland Security, Defense Department, Agriculture department, the Department of the Interior, Justice Department, Department of Veterans Affairs and NASA. What’s more certain agency divisions prefer one tablet supplier over another because of their unique roles and requirements.

Microsoft Makes Gains

According to the report, Apple and its iPad tablet initially dominated the federal IT market, thanks to the company’s “first mover” advantage, which garnered it a 98 percent market share in fiscal year (FY) 2012. But Apple’s share of the federal market has eroded over the past few years, dropping to 61 percent in FY 2015 from 81 percent the previous year. And Microsoft is becoming a serious competitor. Govini reports that “Microsoft grew from virtually zero share in 2012 to a 25 percent share in 2015.”

Tablets running Google’s Android platform jumped from a 4 percent market share in FY 2014 to nearly 11 percent in FY 2015. Tablets from Amazon cornered a slim 3 percent of the market in FY 2015..

What accounts for the changing market? “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 also notes that while federal agencies, especially the Defense Department, have worked with technology firms from Silicon Valley on IT solutions, “commercial products must adapt to Federal needs where proven Microsoft operating platforms dominate when agencies focus on mobility and security.” Components of certain agencies also seem to prefer different tablet solutions, according to Govini. For example, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency accounted for 78 percent of the department’s tablet purchases “and has almost exclusively” purchased iPads for its disaster-relief officials, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection “has shown a preference for Microsoft for its customs and border agents, illustrating that rugged tablets are in demand to operate in harsh conditions.”

Tablet Purchases Concentrated in a Few Agencies

According to the report, tablet adoption “is strongest among agencies with field personnel,” and telework and bring-your-own-device initiatives “are not driving market growth.”

Within the 10 agencies that accounted for 88 percent of all federal tablet sales, the Defense Department led in total tablet spending (59 percent). The report reveals that the Army spent the most on iPads ($22 million), representing nearly a quarter of all federal tablet purchases, while DHS accounted for 21 percent of federal tablet purchases, dropping $17 million on the devices.

Scott Akerman/ThinkStock

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