A steep drop in shipments of Android-based tablets offset a strong quarter from Apple and caused the media tablet market to miss projections for the first quarter of 2012 (1Q12), according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (http://www.idc.com) research group.
Total worldwide media tablet shipments for the quarter reached 17.4 million units in 1Q12, 1.2 million units below IDC's projection for the quarter. While IDC predicted a sharp seasonal slowdown of -34% from the previous quarter’s record-breaking 28.2 million units, the actual decline was slightly steeper at -38.4%. The total still represents a robust year-over-year growth rate of 120%, up from 7.9 million units in the first quarter of 2011.
"Apple reasserted its dominance in the market this quarter, driving huge shipment totals at a time when all but a few Android vendors saw their numbers drop precipitously after posting big gains during the holiday buying season," says Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices at IDC. "Apple's move to position the iPad as an all-purpose tablet, instead of just a content consumption device, is resonating with consumers as well as educational and commercial buyers. And its decision to keep a lower-priced iPad 2 in the market after it launched the new iPad in March seems to be paying off as well."
Apple shipped 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, down from 15.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, and grew its worldwide share from 54.7% in 4Q11 to 68% in 1Q12. Amazon, which stormed into the market in 4Q11 to grab second place with 16.8% of the market on shipment of 4.8 million units, saw its share decline significantly in the first quarter to just over 4%, falling to third place as a result. Samsung took advantage of Amazon's weakness to regain the number two position while Lenovo vaulted into the number four spot, followed by Barnes & Noble at number five.
Although total Android shipments were down sharply in 1Q12, companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are beginning to gain traction in the market with their latest generation of Android products. IDC expects the segment to rebound quickly as other vendors introduce new products in the second quarter and beyond.
"It seems some of the mainstream Android vendors are finally beginning to grasp a fact that Amazon, B&N, and Pandigital figured out early on: Namely, to compete in the media tablet market with Apple, they must offer their products at notably lower price points," Mainelli adds. "We expect a new, larger-screened device from Amazon at a typically aggressive price point, and Google will enter the market with an inexpensive, co-branded ASUS tablet designed to compete directly on price with Amazon's Kindle Fire. The search giant's new tablet will run a pure version of Android, whereas the Fire runs Amazon's own forked version of the OS that cuts Google out of the picture."
The impact that Microsoft Windows 8- and Windows RT-based tablets, which are widely expected to ship into the market by the fourth quarter, will have on the overall tablet market is yet to be determined, according to IDC. Pricing on the new Windows tablets hasn't been announced, and that will be a critical factor when it comes to winning over consumers. Consumer reception to the new OS and the success of integration with traditional Windows systems will also be critical.