The last quarter alone saw 28.2 million units sold, 155 per cent more than the same period in 2010, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker. Based on this performance, and the clear demand expected in 2012, IDC has increased its 2012 forecast to 106.1 million units, up from its previous forecast of 87.7 million units.
Bucking the global trend, Asia-Pacific's last quarter sales were only 8 per cent up from 3Q2011 with just over 5 million units sold. In contrast, sales in 3Q2011 was 45 per cent higher than in 2Q2011, according to figures by IDC Asia-Pacific.
Despite an impressive entrance by Amazon, which shipped 4.7 million Kindle Fires, Apple garnered 54.7 per cent global market share in the fourth quarter of 2011, with 15.4 million units, up from 11.1 million in the third quarter.
Amazon's performance put the company in second place, with 16.8 per cent of the worldwide market. Samsung took third place with 5.8 per cent market share. Despite shipping more units, including its new Nook Tablet, Barnes & Noble saw its worldwide market share slip to 3.5 per cent (down from 4.5 per cent). Pandigital rounded out the top five with 2.5 per cent of the market.
"Amazon's widely reported entry into the media tablet market with a US$199, 7-inch product seemed to raise consumers' awareness of the category worldwide despite the fact that the Fire shipped almost exclusively in the US in the fourth quarter," said Tom Mainelli, research director, mobile connected sevices. "As a result, products across the pricing spectrum sold well, including everything from Apple's premium-priced iPads (which start at US$499) to Pandigital's line of Android-based, entry-level tablets (which start at US$120). The success of market leader Apple was particularly noteworthy."
In Asia, Apple remained the market leader with 70 per cent market share. Samsung is in second place with 10 per cent market share and Lenovo, which doesn't rank in the global top 5, has a 3.5 per cent market share in Asia, reported IDC Asia-Pacific.
Android made strong gains in the last quarter of 2011, thanks in large part to the success of the Amazon Kindle Fire, said IDC. The OS' market share grew from 32.3 per cent in the third quarter to 44.6 per cent in the fourth quarter. As a result, iOS slipped from 61.6 per cent market share to 54.7 per cent.
Blackberry has slipped even further from 1.1 per cent to 0.7 per cent and HP's WebOS, which owned 5 per cent of the market in the third quarter of 2011 dropped to zero by the end of the year. Looking ahead, IDC expects Android to continue to grow its share of the market at the expense of iOS.
"As the sole vendor shipping iOS products, Apple will remain dominant in terms of worldwide vendor unit shipments," said Mainelli. "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 by 2015. We expect iOS to remain the revenue market share leader through the end of our 2016 forecast period and beyond."
Media tablet growth would also not appear to greatly affect ePaper-based eReaders, as that segment also experienced stronger-than-expected growth in the fourth quarter. The growth occured mostly due to sharp price cuts in established markets as well as increasing shipments in regions outside of North America, observed IDC.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the worldwide total increased quarter-on-quarter by 64.3 per cent to more than 10.7 million units, up from 6.5 million units in the third quarter. IDC expects growth to continue in 2012 as major players such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo look to expand into new international markets.
"Publishers in markets outside of North America are only just beginning to warm up to the idea of eBooks," Mainelli added. "Once Amazon and others persuade these content owners to embrace digital formats, we expect eBook reader shipments into these regions to increase more rapidly."