Tablet wars: Apple still dominant but its lead is shrinking

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When it comes to tablets, the iPad has ruled the roost pretty much from the moment Steve Jobs first unveiled it back in 2010. For a lot of people, iPad equals tablet. For the most part, that’s still the case, but its competitors are starting to make inroads.

The latest research from tech analysis company IDC suggests that the iPad, in its various incarnations, can now lay claim to 50.4% of the global tablet market, down from 59.7% at the same time last year.

The companies emerging as the largest competitors to Apple are Samsung and Amazon, with 18.4% and nine percent of the global tablet market respectively.

Global Tablet figures

Much of Samsung’s growth, says IDC, came from sales of its Galaxy Tab and Note 10.1. As an indication of how far Samsung has come as a tablet player in the past year, consider the fact that the 5.1-million tablets it shipped in the third quarter of this year was an increase of 325.0% from the same quarter last year, when it shipped 1.2-million tablets.

“Samsung took advantage of an opportunity in the second quarter,” said Ryan Reith, program manager, IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers. “The company offers a wide range of tablet offerings across multiple screen sizes and colors, and that clearly resonated with more buyers this quarter. Its growth to 18.4% of worldwide market share during the quarter represents the first time a competitor has attained this level of share since the original launch of the iPad.”

Given that Amazon didn’t have a tablet last year, it’s pretty damn impressive that it now holds nine percent of the global tablet market. IDC reckons that a large portion of this growth can be put down to its announcement of new seven-inch and 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD tablets late in the quarter, as well as the fact that it began shipping the new seven-inch HD version (in addition to a refreshed version of the original seven-inch Fire) in mid-September.

“Competitors are turning up the pressure on market leader Apple,” Reith added. “With the recent introduction of a number of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, consumers now have a third viable tablet platform from which to choose. However, price points are critical in tablets, and Microsoft and its partners will have a tough time winning a share of consumer wallet with price points starting at US$500.”

The launch of the iPad Mini and fourth generation iPad may also see Apple regain some of the ground it’s lost this quarter:

“After a very strong second quarter, Apple saw growth slow as both consumer and commercial (including education) shipments declined, and rumors of a forthcoming iPad mini began to heat up,” said Tom Mainelli, research director, tablets at IDC.

“We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini. Now that the new mini, and a fourth-generation full-sized iPad, are both shipping we expect Apple to have a very good quarter. However, we believe the mini’s relatively high US$329 starting price leaves plenty of room for Android vendors to build upon the success they achieved in the third quarter.”

Chart: Worldwide Tablet Vendors Market Share, 2012Q3Description: Worldwide Quarterly Tablet TrackerIDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tracker provides total market size and vendor share for both the Tablet and eReader markets in 46 countries. Detailed segmentation is provided by CPU, operating system, connectivity type, screen size and resolution, storage, distribution channel, and customer segment. Measurement for this tracker is in units, value, and end-user price. For more information, or to subscribe to the research, please contact Kathy Nagamine at 1-650-350-6423 or knagamine@idc.com. Further detail about this tracker can be found at:http://www.idc.com/tracker/showproductinfo.jsp?prod_id=81Tags: Samsung, Apple, Amazon, Asus, Lenovo, Tablet, IDC, tracker, Q3 2012, 3Q 2012, market share, galaxy, iPad, Kindle, Transformer, ideapad, 2012Q3Author: IDCcharts powered by iCharts

Given its late launch, it’s understandable that the study doesn’t include any information on Microsoft’s Surface. Given the big push Microsoft is giving both it and the multi-platform Windows 8 operating system, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of a mark it can make.

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