IDC: Worldwide tablet shipments reached record levels in Q4

According to new research from IDC, Apple's iPad still leads the charge when it comes to worldwide tablet shipments.

Research firm IDC has said that in the fourth quarter of 2012, worldwide PC shipments reached a record level of 52.5 million units, with Apple once again leading the pack.

According to preliminary data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, the tablet market grew 75.3 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter. The data notes that the 51.5 million overall shipment of tablets is up from 29.9 million in Q4 2011. The research firm says that this is due to the expanding range of tablet offerings and strong holiday sales last year.

(Credit: Apple)

"We expected a very strong fourth quarter, and the market didn't disappoint," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Tablets, at IDC. "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 shipments 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."

Among the top tablet manufacturers, Apple once again predictably gained the top slot. iPad shipments grew 48 percent year-on-year to 22.9 million units, which IDC said was in-line with the research firm's forecast, due to the launch of the iPad Mini and the availability of the iPad 4. However, rival firm Samsung remains a strong contender, as Q4 growth skyrocketed 263 percent to reach 7.9 million units--not in the same league as Apple, but the Korean firm is catching up.

Samsung managed to ship 7.9 million Android and Windows 8 tablets during the fourth quarter.

(Credit: IDC)

In the face of expanding tablet development and production, Apple's marketshare dropped for the second consecutive quarter, sliding from 51.7 percent to 43.6 percent, Samsung accounts for 15.1 percent, whereas Amazon's Kindle product range came in at a marketshare of 11.5 percent. Asus saw an explosive growth rate of 402.5 percent in Q4 2012--shipments reaching 3.1 million units--but only claims 5.8 percent of the tablet market, dropping from 7.8 percent quarter-on-quarter.

The holiday season provided a springboard for many tablet manufacturers to boost their respective market shares. Amazon shipped 6 million tablets during the quarter, Barnes & Noble shipped almost one million units, and Microsoft just failed to reach the top five vendor list with just under 900,000 Surface tablets being shipped after its launch in October last year.

Ryan Reith, program manager, Mobile Device Trackers at IDC, believes that Microsoft is serious about tackling the tablet market, but the company's marketing strategy needs some work. He commented:

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.

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