Led by Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad and machines based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system, the tablet market took off in the second quarter.
Worldwide shipments of tablets totaled 13.6 million units, soaring 89 percent in Q2, according to IDC. The popular iPad 2 accounted for 9.3 million units shipped, comprising 68 percent of the global market.
Android tablets, including those based on the Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" build and the tablet-tailored "Honeycomb" OS, totaled 26.8 percent, down from 34 percent from Q1.
Who or what is responsible for that slide?
Research in Motion's (NYSE:RIM) Blackberry PlayBook gobbled the chunk of share from Android. IDC said the PlayBook, which reportedly sold over 500,000 units soon after launch in April, nabbed 5 percent of the tablet market. "Apple's strength and RIM's entrance meant bad news for Android-based media tablets," IDC said.
Also, IDC expects HP will sell a million TouchPads by year's end, thanks to its bargain-basement discount to $100 for the end-of-life slate.
HP decided it didn't want to compete with the iPad, Android and other players who have head starts. The vendor's fire sale will help its webOS claim 4.7 percent market share in Q3 before the platform share vanishes completely in 2012.
Things will get worse before they get better for Android tablets. IDC said the platform will continue to hemorrhage market share, slipping to 23 percent in Q3 before seeing an upturn to 26 percent in Q4. IDC suggested the proliferation of "price-competitive Android products" in the market will contribute to Android's share gains.
Today, most Android tablets cost between $400 and $700, and none of have been able to suitably challenge the $500 iPad on price, functionality and form factor.
Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is expected to launch its Kindle Tablet, which could cost $300 or less. Such products would certainly lure some holiday shoppers Apple's iPad might otherwise claim.
"Apple's iOS share will continue to lead by more than 40 percentage points over Google's Android for the remainder of the year, but we expect Apple's share to fall closer to 50 percent by the end of the forecast period as manufacturers bring new tablets to market," said IDC analyst Jennifer Song.
However, IDC isn't ready to classify the Kindle Tablet as, well, a tablet.
Song said that because the slate, which reportedly leverages a 7-inch screen, has a full-color screen and runs a custom version of Android with Amazon's content services, IDC believes the device will be more like Barnes & Noble's Color Nook e-reader than Apple's iPad 2. Song said IDC is calling the Kindle Tablet an e-reader, sight unseen.
Despite this creative accounting, IDC ratcheted up its 2011 tablet shipment forecast from 53.5 million units to 62.5 million units, largely on the strength of the iPad.