According to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), 10.1 million media tablets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010 (4Q10) -- more than double the 4.5 million shipped in the third quarter.
However, Apple's share came down from 93 percent in 3Q10 to 73 percent in 4Q10. Samsung's Galaxy Tab was the primary competitor in the holiday season, beating other players to market and capturing more than 17 percent share, while a number of smaller regional players also participated.
IDC noted 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 percent 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 at IDC. "Media Tablets are on pace to reach shipments of roughly 50 million units in 2011."
According to the IDC assessment, media tablets are tablet form factor devices with color displays larger than 5 in. and smaller than 14 in. 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 percent 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 percent of all shipments of media tablets in 4Q10 following just over 1 percent share in the third quarter.