Led by Apple's popular iPad and recently released iPad Minis, fourth-quarter tablet shipments jumped 75.3 percent from the same period in 2011 and 74.3 percent from the third quarter of 2012, according to IT research firm IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker.
Lower average selling prices (ASPs), a wide range of new-product offerings and increased holiday spending boosted tablet shipments, according to IDC. Worldwide tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012 climbed to 52.5 million units from 29.9 million units during the same period in 2011 and 30.1 million units in the third quarter of 2012.
A strong iPad Mini launch, plus the availability of the fourth-generation full-sized iPad, led to Apple's 48.1 percent shipment growth from the same quarter last year. However, strong competition in the market led to Apple's market share declining for a second quarter in a row, to 43.6 percent from 46.4 percent in the third quarter.
"We expected a very strong fourth quarter, and the market didn't disappoint," Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for tablets, said in a statement. "New-product launches from the category's top vendors, as well as new entrant Microsoft, led to a surge in consumer interest and very robust shipment totals during the holiday season. The record-breaking quarter stands in stark contrast to the PC market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years."
Samsung experienced 263 percent year-on-year growth, shipping nearly 8 million Android and Windows 8 tablets, combined, during the fourth quarter to grab 15.1 percent of the market, on par its third-quarter share but more than double its share of 7.3 percent in the third quarter of 2012.
Amazon shipped more than 6 million Kindle Fire tablets during the latest quarter, increasing its share to 11.5 percent from 8 percent in the third quarter of 2012 but down from 15.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Number four Asus saw its share slip from to 5.8 percent in the third quarter to 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter, despite continued strong shipments of its Google-branded Nexus 7 tablet. In the latest quarter, Asus' share rose from 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Barnes & Noble shipped close to a million units, which gave it a 1.9 percent fourth-quarter market share, good enough for a fifth place finish, according to IDC.
However, Microsoft was unable to crack IDC's top-five list, despite the hype surrounding its Surface tablet.
"There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul. However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best," Ryan Reith, program manager, Mobile Device Trackers at IDC, said in a statement. "We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices. In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then, ASPs on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes."