Android Tablets Gained on iPad in Late 2011: IDC

Google Android tablets as a whole managed to gain on the iPad in 2011, but individual Android tablets failed to threaten Apple in a big way.

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 wasn€™t enough to seriously challenge Apple€™s 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 Amazon€™s 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. BlackBerry€™s PlayBook tablet held a 0.7 percent share (down from 1.1 percent), and Hewlett-Packard€™s webOS dropped from 5 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to zero by the end of the year.

Moreover, IDC believes Android€™s gains will continue in the near future. €œAs the sole vendor shipping iOS products, Apple will remain dominant in terms of worldwide vendor unit shipments,€ Tom Mainelli, IDC€™s research director for mobile connected devices, wrote in a March 13 note. €œHowever, 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.€

But that won€™t necessarily present an existential threat to Apple, he added: €œWe 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 Apple€™s tablet rivals, it€™s now officially their move.

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