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Total available market of media tablets in Q3 2012 increased slightly to 27.8 million units (up from 25 million units in the previous quarter) and while Apple sustained its position as the No. 1 tablet maker on the planet, its market share significantly contracted as Samsung Electronics as well as Asustek Computer and Amazon finally managed to popularize their Android-based slates.

Worldwide tablet shipments totaled 27.8 million units in the third quarter of 2012, according to preliminary data from the International Data Corp. (IDC). The tablet market grew 49.5% year over year in Q3 2012 and 6.7% over the second quarter of 2012. Android shipments, led by Samsung and Amazon, surged during the quarter, at the expense of Apple, which saw its share slip notably during the same period. IDC observers believe that loads of consumers in the third quarter preferred to wait for the iPad mini to arrive before making a purchase of an Apple tablet. Alternatively, the popularity of 7”-class slates grew in the summer, which caused an increase of shipments for other vendors.

"After a very strong second quarter, Apple saw growth slow as both consumer and commercial (including education) shipments declined, and rumors of a forthcoming iPad mini began to heat up,". "We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini. Now that the new mini, and a fourth-generation full-sized iPad, are both shipping we expect Apple to have a very good quarter. However, we believe the mini's relatively high $329 starting price leaves plenty of room for Android vendors to build upon the success they achieved in the third quarter," said Tom Mainelli, research director of tablets at IDC.

Apple's slowdown put a sizeable dent in the company's commanding worldwide market tablet share, which slipped from 65.5% in Q2 2012 to 50.4% in Q3 2012. The remaining top five tablet vendors all gained share during the quarter as a result. Most notable was the impressive quarter turned out by Samsung, driven by its ever-growing portfolio of tablets. Samsung shipped 5.1 million tablets worldwide in Q3 2012, up 115.0% from Q2 2012; which is also an increase of 325.0% from Q3 2011, when it shipped 1.2 million tablets.

The top 5 was rounded out by Amazon, Asustek Computer, and Lenovo; with all three vendors experiencing sequential growth over Q3 2012 while Lenovo and Asus also saw solid year-over-year growth.

Amazon, which did not have product in Q3 2011, announced new 7” and 8.9” Kindle Fire HD tablets late in the quarter, and began shipping the new 7” HD version (in addition to a refreshed version of the original 7” Fire) in mid-September. This helped grow its worldwide market share from 4.8% in Q2 2012 to 9.0% in Q3 2012, despite only shipping in the U.S. (the company began shipping into five additional countries in Q4 2012).

Asus’ share growth was backed by strong shipments of its Google-branded Nexus 7 device; Lenovo's gains were driven by strong shipments in China.

"Samsung took advantage of an opportunity in the second quarter. The company offers a wide range of tablet offerings across multiple screen sizes and colors, and that clearly resonated with more buyers this quarter. Its growth to 18.4% of worldwide market share during the quarter represents the first time a competitor has attained this level of share since the original launch of the iPad," said Ryan Reith, program manager at IDC's mobile device trackers

IDC believes that with the recent introduction of a number of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, consumers now have a third viable tablet platform from which to choose. However, price points are critical in tablets, and Microsoft and its partners will have a tough time winning a share of consumer wallet with price points starting at $500.

Tags: Apple, iOS, iPad, ASUS, Samsung, Android, Amazon, Kindle, Kindle Fire, Lenovo, Microsoft, Windows RT

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