IDC: Tablet sales underwhelm in Q3, but strong holiday season expected

Apple continues to dominate, but will lose market share during the last three months of 2011

Tablet sales at 18.1 million units during the third quarter were somewhat lower than expected, but stronger-than-expected demand during the rest of the year will give the market a boost, according to market research company IDC.

The analysts at IDC had expected tablet shipments into sales channels to total 19.2 million units July through September. Sales fell short of that number but were still up about 24 percent sequentially and more than 260 percent year-on-year, according to IDC.

But thanks to the arrival of products like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet, IDC sees strong demand in the fourth quarter and has increased its worldwide shipment forecast for the full year to 63.3 million units, up from a previous projection of 62.5 million units.

The Kindle Fire and the Nook will also give Android a boost, and help increase its market share from 32.4 percent to about 40 percent, according to IDC.

The share increase comes at the expense of Apple's iPad, whose market share will drop to 59 percent. The Android camp is also helped by Hewlett-Packard's exit. Despite HP's plan to turn webOS into an open-source platform, IDC does not believe the operating system will reappear in the media tablet market in any meaningful way, it said.

Even if it is losing market share, Apple is still the largest tablet vendor by a wide margin. The company shipped 11.1 million iPads during the third quarter, which gave it a 61.5 percent market share.

Apple's mobile device nemesis Samsung sold about 1 million units, which was enough to grab second place and a 5.6 percent market share.

HP was in third place with 903,000 units sold and a 5 percent market share.

The top five was rounded out by Barnes & Noble, which shipped 805,000 units to achieve the number-four spot with a 4.5 percent market share, and Asus, with a 4 percent share.

More tablet-specific apps, upcoming iPad versions, and growing physical store presence in key emerging markets will help Apple hold on to the top spot. But lower prices and an improved operating system will help Android grab a larger market share as well.

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Tags tabletsGoogleAppleHewlett-Packardhardware systemsconsumer electronicse-readersBarnes & NobleSamsung ElectronicsAsustek Computer

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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