Led by Apple iPad, Tablet Sales Hit 4.5 Million Units in Q3 2010: ABI

The Apple iPad, grabbing 93 percent market share, led the tablet market to 4.5 million units during the third quarter-which was also good for netbook and e-book sales.

The Apple iPad has plenty of company in the tablet marketplace these days, but during the third quarter of 2010, the tablet that reinvigorated the form factor nonetheless still held 93 percent of the worldwide market share, according to ABI Research.

The firm said in a new report Feb. 23 that during the quarter tablets, as they earlier suggested, proved themselves to be a "promising new talent," with shipments reaching 4.5 million units.

"Over time, Apple's first-to-market iPad advantage will inevitably erode to some extent," ABI Senior Practice Director Jeff Orr said in a statement, though, for now, Apple continues to be king.

Apple announced in January that during its fiscal first quarter of 2011 it sold a record-high 7.3 million iPads, in addition to record numbers of iPhones and Macs (which contributed to record-high revenue and earnings, as well).

Giving Apple still another accolade, DisplaySearch said Apple was the top-selling mobile PC shipper during the fourth quarter of 2010, in a Feb. 16 report in which it-like research firm Canalys-decided the time was right to begin folding figures for tablets into mobile PC tallies.

"Apple is currently benefiting from significant and comprehensive growth from both sectors of the mobile PC spectrum, notebooks and tablet PCs," DisplaySearch Senior Analyst Richard Shim said in the report, noting that cannibalization of the former by the latter was for now limited.

Apple COO Tim Cook remarked during the company's January earnings call that, as the iPad and Apple MacBook Air seem practically designed to compete against one another, cannibalization isn't something Apple wastes any time thinking about.

ABI also hinted at e-books and netbooks sales in its new report. In time for holiday shopping, Barnes & Nobile introduced a color version-an industry first among the top vendors-of its Nook reader, Amazon released a third-generation of its Kindle, and new, low selling prices also came to market.

"The U.S. continues to be the leading market for e-book readers," ABI's Orr said in the statement, "and the three top vendors, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony, are comfortably maintaining their top positions in it."

As for netbooks-a category that has certainly felt the pinch of the mass arrival of media tablets-the first half of 2010 was slow, though in the third quarter things turned around, ABI said.

"The third quarter saw PC OEMs again breathe life into the segment by introducing new platforms that offered dual-core processors and lighter/thinner devices with significantly better performance, sleek styling and visual appeal," said Orr.

Tensions between tablets and netbooks were obvious in January, when Acer denied that it was phasing out netbooks in favor of tablets, after a company salesperson suggested otherwise. Acer, which has a number of Android- and Windows-running tablets in the works, released a statement saying that it recognizes a change is occurring in the computer market.

"This means the range of devices available to users is getting wider and tablets are just another piece of the mosaic," the statement continued. "Therefore, they will find their space next to netbooks and notebooks."

Morgan Stanley raised its forecast for 2012 tablet sales to 100 million units, in a Feb. 14 report that suggested the tablet market will be greater than many analysts are currently expecting. The report added that during the next 12 months, China will come to account for 41 percent of tablet shipments, while the United States-behind Japan and much of Europe-will only account for 11 percent.