Amazon managed to ship 4.7 million Kindle Fire tablets by the end of 2011, according to a new report from research firm IDC. While that allowed the online retailer to seize an estimated 16.8 percent of the worldwide tablet market, it wasnt enough to seriously challenge Apples iPad, whose share stands at 54.7 percent.
Meanwhile, Samsung claimed 5.8 percent of the tablet market in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 5.5 percent in the previous quarter. Barnes & Noble, whose lower-priced Nook Tablet is considered a competitor to Amazons Kindle franchise, saw its tablet market share slip during that same period from 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent.
Despite these individual tablets failure to topple the iPad from its throne, Google Android as a whole made significant gains in the space, expanding its market share from 32.3 percent to 44.6 percent between the third and fourth quarters. BlackBerrys PlayBook tablet held a 0.7 percent share (down from 1.1 percent), and Hewlett-Packards webOS dropped from 5 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to zero by the end of the year.
Moreover, IDC believes Androids gains will continue in the near future. As the sole vendor shipping iOS products, Apple will remain dominant in terms of worldwide vendor unit shipments, Tom Mainelli, IDCs research director for mobile connected devices, wrote in a March 13 note. However, the sheer number of vendors shipping low-priced, Android-based tablets means that Googles OS will overtake Apples in terms of worldwide market share by 2015.
But that wont necessarily present an existential threat to Apple, he added: We expect iOS to remain the revenue market share leader through the end of our 2016 forecast period and beyond.
Apple will look to increase its lead in the tablet space with the new iPad, scheduled to release March 16. The next-generation device features a high-resolution Retina Display, backed by a new A5X processor with quad-core graphics, and a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video. It weighs slightly more than the iPad 2, at 1.4 pounds, and offers comparable battery life. Those in the U.S. will have the option of purchasing the new iPad with 4G (Long-Term Evolution) LTE connectivity on either Verizon or AT&T.
In a move that maintains pressure on its competitors, the new iPad will keep the same prices as the previous model, starting at $499 for WiFi-only versions and $629 for those with 4G capability. Prices top out at $699 for the WiFi-only, 64GB model and $829 for the 64GB model with WiFi and 4G.
For Apples tablet rivals, its now officially their move.