Tablets Shipment ResearchNew research from International Data Corporation (IDC) underscores the dramatic growth of media tablets since their inception just a couple of years ago. Worldwide media tablet shipments into sales channels rose to 28.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011—a 155% increase over the same period a year earlier and a 56.1% increase from the previous quarter, IDC said.

“Amazon’s widely-reported entry into the media tablet market with a $199, seven-inch product seemed to raise consumers’ awareness of the category worldwide,” said Tom Mainelli, IDC research director for Mobile Connected Devices, in an announcement of the research results. “As a result, products across the pricing spectrum sold well, including everything from Apple’s premium-priced iPads (which start at $499) to Pandigital’s line of Android-based, entry-level tablets (which start at $120).”

With the rise of new competitors, Apple’s share of the tablet market dropped from 61.5% to 54.7% between the third and fourth quarter of 2011. Nevertheless, the company had no problem retaining its number one position—and its total shipments increased from 11.1 million to 15.4 million units during the same period.

Amazon had the second largest market share in the tablet market after Apple, IDC said. Amazon’s sales of 4.7 million Kindle Fires in fourth quarter gave it a 16.8% market share. Samsung came in third with a 5.8% share (up from 5.5% in third quarter), followed by Barnes & Noble, which saw its share drop to 3.5% from 4.5%, and Pandigital, which measured a 2.5% share–down 2.9% from the previous quarter.

Moving forward, IDC expects to see the total market share of Android devices rise, while the share for iOS devices—available only from Apple—declines. Android grew its market share from 32.3% in the third quarter of 2011 to 44.6% in the fourth quarter of the year—a feat IDC attributes, in large part, to the success of the Amazon Kindle Fire.

During the same period, the market share for iOS dropped from 61.6% to 54.7%, while Blackberry slipped from 1.1% to 0.7% and WebOS dropped from 5% to zero.

“As the sole vendor shipping iOS products, Apple will remain dominant in terms of worldwide vendor unit shipments,” Mainelli said. “However, the sheer number of vendors shipping low-priced, Android-based tablets means that Google’s OS will overtake Apple’s in terms of worldwide market share in 2015. We expect iOS to remain the revenue market share leader through the end of our 2016 forecast period and beyond.”

Total media tablet shipments for 2011 were 68.7 million, IDC said. As a result of that strong showing the research firm raised its 2012 forecast to 106.1 million units, up from its previous forecast of 87.7 million units.

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