Study: Samsung and Asus benefit from growing tablet market, but problems may lie ahead for Microsoft

January 31, 2013

Reporting the results from its Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, the research firm said that worldwide tablet shipments increased by 75.3% year-on-year to 51.5 million units in the fourth quarter, and put this strong showing down to the increasing variety of tablets and encouraging sales over the holiday season.

“We expected a very strong fourth quarter, and the market didn't disappoint," said Tom Mainelli, IDC’s research director for tablets.

"New product launches from the category's top vendors, as well as new entrant Microsoft, led to a surge in consumer interest and very robust shipments totals during the holiday season. The record-breaking quarter stands in stark contrast to the PC market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years."

Apple’s iPad continues to dominate the tablet market with IDC reporting that iPad shipments jumped up by 48% year-on-year to reach 22.9 million units in the quarter.

This growth was supposedly in line with the research firm’s forecast and owed largely to the release of the iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad, but IDC also saw encouraging signs from Apple’s rivals, notably Samsung and Asus.

The former shipped 7.9 million Android and Windows 8 tablets in the quarter, representing a year-on-year growth of 263%. The Korean firm now holds a considerable 15% of the tablet market, with Apple’s share sliding slightly from 51.7% to 43.6% over the course of the year.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire stands in third place after Q4 shipments hit 6 million units for a market share of 11.5%, but it was Asus that arguably enjoyed a stronger quarter. The firm's tablet shipments grew four-fold in a year to 3.1 million units, a figure no doubt boosted by the arrival of Google's Nexus 7 (which is made by Asus).

The top five was rounded off by Barnes & Noble, which shipped just over one million Nook tablets, while the late arrival of the Surface tablet saw Microsoft ship 900,000 tablets.

While this figure was in keeping with earlier forecasts from research analysts, IDC has subsequently warned Microsoft that it needs to drop the price of Windows 8 tablets, and fast.

"We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices,” said Ryan Reith, program manager for the mobile device trackers at IDC.

“In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then ASPs on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes."

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