Will the tablet market mimic the smartphone market?
IDC released research on fourth quarter tablet shipments and Samsung appears to be emerging as the biggest threat to the iPad. That echoes what’s happened in the smartphone market, where Samsung has caught up, with its Android phones outselling the iPhone during some quarters.
IDC said that tablet shipments blew past its expectations for the fourth quarter, hitting 52.5 million units in the fourth quarter 2012. That’s up 75 percent over the previous year.
The iPad sold about where IDC expected, with 22.9 million units, meaning that non-iPad tablets sold better than the analysts expected. Apple did lose some market share, down to 43.6 percent from 46.4 percent in the third quarter and 51.7% share a year ago.
Samsung more than tripled its tablet shipments from last year, with 8 million tablets shipped. IDC lumps Android and Windows 8 tablets together for Samsung but it’s a safe bet that the vast majority of Samsung tablet shipments were Android.
That left Samsung with a 15 percent market share, still quite far behind Apple, but up from 7.3 percent in the previous year. With a growth rate like that, Samsung has a solid chance of catching up.
The big losers for the quarter were PCs in general and Microsoft. At the same time that tablet shipments went through the roof, PC shipments declined for the first time in more than five years, IDC said.
A drop in PC sales is bad for Microsoft since it’s got the bulk of that market but it’s particularly stark for Microsoft since it’s failing to capture any of the shift to tablets.
IDC expects that Microsoft shipped under 900,000 Surface tablets in the quarter, which is in line with other analyst expectations.
IDC suggests that Microsoft and its OEM partners need to quickly respond to trends toward smaller screens and lower prices if they want to participate in the tablet market. “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,” Ryan Reith, an IDC analyst, said in a press release.
Otherwise, Amazon and Barnes & Noble also won market share in the quarter. Amazon shipped 6 million tablets, giving it 11.5 percent market share, up from 8.3 percent in the previous quarter. Barnes & Noble is pretty far behind, shipping a million and taking 1.9 percent market share. With its Nexus 7, Asus increased shipments more than 5x over last year, but still lost market share.
Here's the full chart: