The worldwide media tablet market grew 45.1% in the third quarter of 2010 (3Q10), driven almost exclusively by global demand for Apple’s iPad. According to the International Data Corporation (http://www.idc.com) researchgroup, vendors shipped 4.8 million units globally in 3Q10, compared to 3.3 million units in the second quarter of 2010 and iPad represented nearly 90% of the media tablets shipped worldwide in 3Q10.

The growing popularity of tablet devices among consumers worldwide is evidenced not only by adoption of media tablets, but also of eReaders, saysIDC. The third quarter of 2010 saw global eReader shipments increase to 2.7 million units representing 40% growth over 2Q10, with the U.S. representing nearly three-quarters of the worldwide eReader market.

According to IDC, media tablets are tablet form factor devices with color displays larger than five 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 computers run full operating systems and are based on x86 processors, according to IDC’s definition.

Media tablets support multiple connectivity technologies and a broad range of applications, which differentiates them from single purposeā€“focused devices such as eReaders. Media tablet market evolution will be driven not only by product introductions from computer, consumer electronics, and mobile phone vendors, but also by expanded distribution channels (with mobile operators playing a key role) and commercial adoption by businesses, says IDC.

Looking forward, the research expects the media tablet market to finish 2010 at nearly 17 million units, and forecasts 44.6 million will ship in 2011, with the U.S. representing nearly 40% of the total. In 2012, IDC forecasts worldwide shipments of 70.8 million units. Growth in 2011 and beyond will be driven by device vendors introducing media tablets based on Android and other operating systems, as well as price and feature competition and strong demand in both the consumer and commercial segments, per IDC.

For the eReader market, IDC anticipates 2010 to close at 10.8 million units shipped worldwide, with the U.S. representing 72.4% of global shipments. IDC forecasts 14.7 million units to ship in 2011 and 16.6 million in 2012, with demand driven by price competition among epaper-based device vendors, the introduction of color display eReaders, and the expansion of digital book and periodical content offerings across genres and languages.