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Worldwide media tablet shipments into sales channels fell by 28% on a sequential basis in the first calendar quarter of 2011 to 7.2 million units worldwide, according to the International Data Corp. (IDC). Looking forward, however, IDC raised its shipment forecast for 2011 to 53.5 million units from a previous projection of 50.4 million units.

"Like the PC market, media tablets had a bit of a challenging quarter in Q1, as concerns about general macroeconomic issues and the post-holiday letdown took a toll on demand. We expect the rest of the year to be much stronger, but we believe vendors who continue to focus on the telco channel for distribution will face serious challenges,” said Bob O'Donnell, IDC vice president of clients and displays.

For Q1 2011, the seasonal trends typically found in more mature consumer electronics and computing categories had a notable impact on the burgeoning media tablet market, suggesting that demand for the category may not be quite as strong as recent media hype suggests. The electronic book reader market (which IDC counts separately) experienced similar seasonality, undergoing a sequential decline in shipments to 3.3 million units as the post-holiday season proved to be challenging for that category. However, e-book readers enjoyed 105% year-over-year growth as the devices continue to grow in overall popularity, particularly with the introduction of color devices, such as Barnes & Noble's Color Nook.

Apple's iPad and the recently introduced iPad 2 continue to dominate the media tablet market, as other vendors have had a more difficult time finding market acceptance for their products. But even Apple's shipments for the quarter were well below expectations. Some supply-chain hiccups on screens as well as the pre-release announcement of the iPad 2 several weeks before its actual availability combined to have a noticeable impact on the company's shipments for the quarter, according to IDC.

Mobile phone vendors, such as Samsung and Motorola, who have focused their distribution through the telco carriers, found moderate success with their media tablets, but sales were largely stymied by many consumers' unwillingness to sign up for the 3G/4G data plans that the carriers typically require along with these devices. As an operating system, Android-based devices grew to 34% of the total, a share increase of 8.2 points over the previous quarter.

For electronic books, Barnes & Noble's Color Nook helped the company to take the lead in the eReader market for the first time. Amazon's Kindle was second, but the lack of a color offering has clearly impacted the company's previous dominance in the e-book reader market. IDC forecasts the worldwide eReader market to ship 16.2 million units in 2011, a 24% increase over 2010.

"Although media tablet sales were not as high as expected in Q1 2011 due to slower consumer demand, overall economic conditions, and supply-chain constraints, we believe with the entrance of competitive new devices in second half of 2011, the market will sell close to 53 million units for the year and continue to grow long-term," said Jennifer Song, IDC research analyst.

Tags: IDC, Apple, Motorola, Samsung, iPad, RIM, Blackberry, Galaxy

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