Apple's share of tablet shipments surges

According to the latest numbers from market research firm IDC, Android-based tablets had a rough first quarter of 2012. The whole market was down, which is to be expected given how many tablets ended up in folks' Christmas stockings. 17.4 million tablets were shipped during Q1, which is a 38% decrease over the holiday quarter of 2011. That's more of a drop than IDC expected, although it points out that shipments more than doubled compared to the first quarter of last year.

Apple's slice of first-quarter shipments rose sharply, jumping from 55% for the holiday quarter to 68% in Q1. The new iPad and the accompanying price cut to the iPad 2 likely contributed that surge. We didn't really see any new Android tablets enter the market or benefit from substantial discounts during the same period.

One of the most interesting revelations in IDC's press release is the decline of Amazon's Kindle. The device was hugely popular with holiday shoppers, making up 16.8% of the market in Q4'11. However, its slice of the pie plummeted to just 4% the following quarter. That dropped Amazon from second to third place in overall tablet shipments, allowing Samsung to regain the number-two spot. Asus didn't make the top five.

IDC expects a strong rebound for Android tablets in the second quarter, although research director Tom Mainelli notes that device makers will have to "offer their products at notably lower price points" to compete with Apple. DigiTimes is also enthusiastic about Android's chances, going to far as to predict that Android tablets will dominate the market in the third quarter. That sounds a little optimistic to me, but a number of new Android tablets are on the way, including a 10" Kindle and a 7" Asus tablet that should cost around $200. It will be interesting to see whether that 7-incher, coupled with the new Transformer Pad 300 and the upcoming Infinity Series, can push Asus up the rankings.

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