Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL)'s success can be largely attributed to the mobile computing revolution, brought on by advent of smartphones and tablets. What started as a twinkle in Apple's eye grew into over 75% of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)'s revenue last quarter. To date, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has yet to capitalize on the mobile computing revolution in a meaningful way for investors. As a result, shares have remained stuck in a range-bound rut for nearly a decade, and are likely to continue doing so until Microsoft proves that it can deliver new growth. The hope is that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)'s Windows 8 product lines will unify the experience between desktop, tablet, and smartphone, ultimately driving new users to its ecosystem. The million-dollar question: Are Microsoft's efforts enough to build an Apple-like mobile empire?
A tablet-sized opportunity According to IDC, tablets will remain a high-growth area for years to come. The firm estimated that 122.3 million tablets shipped worldwide last year. By 2016, it's expected that worldwide shipments will more than double to 282.7 million. It's believed that Microsoft held 2.9% of the tablet market in 2012, which IDC anticipates will grow to 10.3% by 2016. At that time, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) will be poised to benefit from the shipment of over 29 million Windows tablets. This growth will likely come at the expense of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple iOS. Of the three ecosystems, Microsoft is seen growing the most rapidly -- at a pace of 69.2% compounded annually -- well above the 23.3% industry average. In other words, IDC sees that Windows 8/RT will ultimately be well received over the longer term.
The future is emerging In case you haven't heard, Android is the current victor in the smartphone war since it commands an estimated 68.3% of the market. Android won by employing a worldwide OEM-driven distribution model, in which manufacturers offer an abundance of sub-$250 unsubsidized Android smartphones. This has allowed Android to become wildly popular within emerging markets, an area where Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is currently gearing up for battle. Compared to developed markets, emerging markets have a larger untapped growth potential, which could help Microsoft quickly gain share in a short period of time.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has reportedly teamed up with QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) to develop a Windows Phone 8 reference design in order to attract a larger base of emerging-market OEMs. It's expected that low- and mid-range smartphones based off this design will be released in the second half of this year. The hope is that this effort will plant the seeds necessary to drive emerging-market growth for both Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Qualcomm.