Tablets are the new hotness, and amazingly, shipments beat expectations for the fourth quarter of 2012. So says the latest report from market research firm IDC, which claims a whopping 52.5 million tablets shipped in the holiday quarter. That figure represents a 74.3% increase from Q3 and caps a strong year overall. 2012 tablet shipments were up 75.3% over the previous year.
As expected, Apple continues to dominate the landscape. The iPad's share of the growing market is shrinking, though; it sat at 43.6% in the fourth quarter, down from 51.7% for the same quarter a year ago. That said, Apple still experienced shipment growth of 48.1% between those two periods.
Samsung was the number-two tablet maker for the quarter, according to IDC. The firm's Q4 shipments nearly quadrupled the total for the same quarter last year, and its market share more than doubled to 15.1%. Amazon, meanwhile, saw its market share decline from 15.9% to 11.5%. The Kindle maker still enjoyed shipment growth of 26.8%, and it fared better than Barnes & Noble, which saw shipments decline by a similar percentage.
Asus experienced the biggest quarterly shipment growth year over year, no doubt thanks to the Nexus 7. The Taiwanese firm's Q4 tablet shipments hit 3.1 million units, a fourfold increase from the same period last year. Microsoft's Surface RT reportedly shipped just 900,000 units—less than the B&N Nook. According to IDC program manager Ryan Reith, "Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices." I'm not sure I agree that everyone needs to start making sub-10" Windows tablets, but it's clear consumers aren't keen on swallowing the price premium attached to the Surface RT. Microsoft is still charging $499 for the thing, while the price of Asus' similar VivoTab RT has dropped to $399 online.