Apple, Samsung led tablet market in Q4, Microsoft not in top five

Apple and Samsung were the top tablet vendors in the fourth quarter of 2012, IDC said

Apple and Samsung Electronics led the tablet market in the fourth quarter of 2012, but new entrant Microsoft did not make it to the top five with its Surface tablet.

The market share of Apple also continued to drop in the quarter,according to IDC.

Tablet shipments worldwide reached a record total of 52.5 million units in the fourth quarter, up 75.3 percent from close to 30 million units in the same quarter in the previous year. Spending on the devices got a boost from lower average selling prices, new product offerings, and increased holiday spending, IDC said.

The growth in the tablet market is in sharp contrast to the PC market which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in over five years, the research firm added. Tablets and mobile devices are expected to have cut into sales of PCs, according to analysts.

Apple shipped close to 23 million units in the quarter, helped by the launch of the iPad mini and the fourth generation full-size iPad. The company's shipments were up 48 per cent over the same quarter last year, but because of competition, its market share declined for a second quarter in a row to 43.6 per cent.

Competitor Samsung saw 263 per cent year-on-year growth, shipping nearly 8 million Android and Windows 8 tablets during the quarter to get about 15 per cent share of the market.

Apple and Samsung are involved in patent infringement disputes in the U.S. and other countries, aimed at blocking sales of each other's products.

Amazon.com, ranked number three, shipped over 6 million tablets during the quarter, increasing its share to 11.5 per cent from 8.3 per cent in the previous quarter, after a year-on-year growth of 26.8 per cent. Bookseller Barnes & Noble shipped close to 1 million units for a share of 1.9 per cent, after a year-over-year decline of -27.7 per cent, while number four Asus saw its share slip to 5.8 per cent despite continued strong shipments of its Google-branded Nexus 7 tablet and an year-over-year increase in shipments of 402.5 per cent, IDC said.

Microsoft did not make it to the top five during the quarter with its Surface with Windows RT tablet, with shipments close to 900,000 units into the channel. The company needs "to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices", said Ryan Reith, program manager at IDC, in a statement. Consumers may in the long run find it justified to pay a premium for high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems, but until then average selling prices of Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive volumes, he added.

Microsoft will ship the Surface with Windows 8 Pro tablet with an Intel Core i5 processor on Feb. 9, with prices starting at $US899. Unlike the Surface with Windows RT, which has an operating system designed for an ARM processor, the new tablet is designed for x86 processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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