Apple Share of Tablet Market to Drop Slightly, but Global Shipments Continue to Grow

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As tablets continue to grow in popularity, research firm IDC has raised its forecast for 2012, expecting shipments of the mobile devices to reach 122.3 million units, while also predicting that Apple’s annual market share will drop slightly as Android gains more traction.

IDC Q4 Tablet MarketUp from the company’s previous prediction of 117.1 million units, the number of tablets shipped worldwide will experience a slight boost in the last leg of 2012 thanks to the arrival of Apple’s iPad Mini, as well as a diversified price range of new Android tablets, according to IDC. No longer limited to the $500-plus iPad, consumers have more choices in terms of cost, with most 7-inch Android tablets starting around $200.

Despite the success of its smaller slate, Apple will see a minor dip from its 2011 market share of 56%, as IDC expects the iOS operating system to account for 54% of the market this year. Picking up some of that slack will be Android, as the platform is predicted to grow almost 3% year over year to 43%, as tablets running Google”s software become more prevalent thanks to their lower price points.

“The breadth and depth of Android has taken full effect on the tablet market as it has for the smartphone space,” said Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers. “Android tablet shipments will certainly act as the catalyst for growth in the low-cost segment in emerging markets given the platform’s low barrier to entry on manufacturing. At the same time, top-tier companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and ASUS are all launching Android tablets with comparable specs, but offered at much lower price points.”

IDC also raised its forecasts for global tablet shipments in 2013, increasing its prediction to 172 million units, up from 166 million units. As for long term, the company expects worldwide shipments to jump from 261 million units to 283 million units by 2016.

The company also predicts that sales of Windows-based tablets will start to eat into market shares of iOS and Android, increasing from 3% in 2012 to 10% in 2016. Despite this loss, Apple will still lead the pack in tablet operating systems, accounting for 50% of the market in 2016, with Android closing in with 40%.

Yet, in every race there are winners and losers, and once again the increase in tablet shipments comes at the expense of eReaders, with shipments of these devices expected to drop 8% to 20 million units for 2012, as more consumers opt for multi-use tablets like the iPad.

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