Research firm IDC today released its data on tablet shipments for the fourth quarter of 2011, pegging Apple at 54.7% of the market. Apple's share is down from 61.5% in the previous quarter, with the decline due in large part to a relatively strong debut for Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire tablet, which garnered 16.8% of the market.
"Amazon's widely-reported entry into the media tablet market with a $199, 7-inch product seemed to raise consumers' awareness of the category worldwide despite the fact that the Fire shipped almost exclusively in the U.S. in the fourth quarter," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices. "As a result, products across the pricing spectrum sold well, including everything from Apple's premium-priced iPads (which start at $499) to Pandigital's line of Android-based, entry-level tablets (which start at $120). The success of market leader Apple was particularly noteworthy, as the company's shipment total for the quarter represents an increase of 110.5% from 4Q10."
On the strength of the Kindle Fire, Android has seen its share of the tablet market rise from 32.3% to 44.6%, giving iOS and Android 99.3% of the market. Research in Motion's BlackBerry operating system holds the remaining 0.7% of the market, while HP's webOS has disappeared from the market following the company's discontinuation of its TouchPad.
IDC predicts that Android as a whole will overtake iOS in market share by 2015, but Apple's single-vendor strategy will see the company maintain its dominance in revenue through the end of the 2016 forecast period and beyond.
IDC's data measures shipments into the sales channel and not sales to end users, meaning that its data includes units sitting on store shelves that are not being purchased by customers. Given that Apple has repeatedly noted that it is selling every iPad it can make and other vendors have had difficulty moving their products off of store shelves, Apple has generally been regarded as having a higher end-user market share than suggested by IDC's numbers. But with the apparent success of the Kindle Fire, that disparity in shipments versus sales may be shrinking somewhat.