The ongoing outlook for the high-growth media tablet market segment is subject to seasonal fluctuation. According to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), a drop in shipments of Google Android-based media tablets was offset by a strong quarter from Apple -- and this result caused the media tablet market to miss projections for the first quarter of 2012 (1Q12).
Total worldwide media tablet shipments for the quarter reached 17.4 million units in 1Q12 -- that's 1.2 million units below IDC's prior projection for the quarter. While IDC predicted a sharp seasonal slowdown of -34 percent from the previous quarter's record-breaking 28.2 million units, the actual decline was slightly steeper at -38.4 percent.
However, that being said, the total still represents a solid year-over-year growth rate of 120 percent, which is up from the 7.9 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2011.
"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," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices at IDC.
Apple shipped 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, that's down from 15.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, and grew its worldwide share from 54.7 percent in 4Q11 to 68 percent in 1Q12. Amazon entered the market in 4Q11 to grab second place with a 16.8 percent share that was based on a shipment of 4.8 million units.
Its share decline significantly in the first quarter to just over 4 percent, falling to third place as a result. Samsung took advantage of Amazon's decline to regain the number two position, while Lenovo moved 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.
IDC says that the market impact from the introduction of Microsoft Windows-based tablets is yet to be determined. Pricing on the new Windows tablets hasn't been announced, and that will be a key factor that could limit its potential. Consumer reception to the new OS and the success of integration with traditional Windows systems will also be critical.
"The worldwide tablet market is entering a new phase in the second half of 2012 that will undoubtedly reshape the competitive landscape," said Bob O'Donnell, program vice president, Clients and Displays at IDC.
"While Apple will continue to sit comfortably on the top for now, the battle for the next several positions is going to be fierce. Throw in Ultrabooks, the launch of Windows 8, and a few surprise product launches, and you have all the makings of an incredible 2012 holiday shopping season."