Nearly 18 million media tablets were shipped in 2010 with Apple capturing 83 per cent, technology search firm IDC said in a release on Thursday.
In Q4 2010, tablet shipments doubled to 10.1 million in from 4.5 shipped in the previous quarter. Despite drop in market share, Apple continues to lead with 73 per cent in Q4 as compared to 93 per cent in Q3.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab was the primary competitor in the holiday season, beating other players to market and capturing more than 17 per cent share, while a number of smaller regional players also participated.
The IDC’s Tracker showed that the eReader market also picked up significantly in the fourth quarter. Strong sales of Amazon's Kindle, which was refreshed in August and priced more aggressively, as well as significant gains from competitors such as Pandigital, Barnes & Noble, Hanvon, and Sony among others, contributed to market growth.
In 4Q10, the eReader market more than doubled volume from the previous quarter, with more than 6 million units shipped for the quarter, bringing the full-year total to 12.8 million units shipped. eReader shipments were also up more than 325 per cent from 2009 when roughly 3 million units shipped. The strong growth reflects a more competitive offering as well as widening interest in the category, including a boost from media tablet press and much lower pricing.
"Strong holiday sales of media tablets were in line with IDC projections and strong consumer interest in the category while device vendors scrambled to offer products competitive with Apple's iPad and now iPad 2," said Loren Loverde, vice president, Consumer Device Trackers. "Media Tablets are on pace to reach shipments of roughly 50 million units in 2011."
According to IDC, media tablets are tablet form factor devices with colour displays larger than 5 inches and smaller than 14 inches. running lightweight operating systems (such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS) and can be based on either x86 or ARM processors. By contrast, tablet PCs run full PC operating systems and are based on x86 processors. Media tablets support multiple connectivity technologies and a broad range of applications, which differentiates them from single purpose–focused devices such as eReaders. Media tablet market evolution will be driven not only by product introductions from PC, consumer electronics, and mobile phone vendors, but also by expanded distribution channels (with mobile operators playing a key role) and commercial adoption by businesses.
According to IDC, the United States, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) regions accounted for 89 per cent of all media tablet shipments in 4Q10. Although the United States remained the largest country market, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) grew almost twice as fast from 3Q10 to 4Q10 and Western Europe saw a slightly larger jump in shipments in 4Q10.
In 4Q10, retailers were the channel with the highest share of shipments, followed by direct and telco sales. A new channel for media tablets, the telco operators, accounted for nearly 14 per cent of all shipments of media tablets in 4Q10 following just over 1 per cent share in the third quarter.
Apple is building on its strong 2010 first-generation iPad launch with the iPad 2, which will ship this month, before most competitors come to market with first generation media tablets. Although more competing devices will be launched this year, IDC expects Apple to maintain a 70-80 per cent share of the market.
Samsung started shipping its 7 in. Galaxy Tab media tablet in 4Q10. Although its shipments into the channel were fairly aggressive, a lack of competitive pricing and ongoing competition from Apple stifled consumer demand. Samsung is expected to follow with a 10.1 in. Galaxy Tab with Android 3.0 Honeycomb later this year, but the refresh will have a tough time maintaining share as more competitors enter the market.
The recently launched Motorola Xoom is a worthy competitor in function, although the relatively high price is expected to be a barrier to gaining significant share.
Other vendors and designs are expected to hit the market in earnest in the second half of 2011. Many of these products will be more competitive in function, like the Xoom, but we expect only those from large vendors with significant marketing and channel structure in addition to a few technologically and price competitive devices to capture significant share. One differentiation path that some vendors are likely to take is to focus on specific market segments, such as commercial. While benefitting from unique product positioning, they are likely to address a smaller overall market and will need to be competitive with devices from Apple and others.