Without any surprises, Amazon Kindle Fire and B&N Nook tablets released in Q4 2011 by two major content resellers quickly became extremely popular among their clients. As a result of that as well as growing sales of other media tablets, market share of Apple iPad decreased to 57% in Q4 2011. Nonetheless, none of Apple's competitors could sell anything close to 15 million units and Amazon was the main competitor with 3.885 million of Kindle Fire devices.
Amazon Surpasses Samsung, Begins to Challenge Apple
Apple shipped 15.4 million iPad-series tablets during the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the IHS iSuppli market research firm. But while shipments were up 39% from 11.1 million in the third quarter, Apple’s share of the global media tablet market slipped to 57% in the fourth quarter, down from 64% in the third quarter.
The debut performance of the Kindle Fire played a strong role in the share shift, particularly in the U.S. market, which accounted for more than half of global fourth-quarter media tablet sales. Amazon shipped 3.9 million Fire tablets in the fourth quarter, allowing the company to garner a double-digit share of the market, at 14.3%. This drove Amazon to become the world’s second-largest tablet shipper in the fourth quarter, surpassing Samsung Electronics.
“Shipments of the iPad line fell short of IHS estimates in the fourth quarter as many loyal Apple customers devoted their dollars to shiny new alternatives. [...] Kindle Fire shipments in the fourth quarter came right in line with the IHS early December forecast of 3.9 million units, representing a respectable start for the Fire. However, the long-term viability of the product will hinge on the success of Amazon’s business gamble, which depends on tablet sales driving substantial new online merchandise sales at Amazon.com in order to attain profitability,” said Rhoda Alexander, senior manager, tablet and monitor research for IHS.
Apple is likely to reclaim its tablet market share when it commences volume shipments of the next version of the iPad, which is expected in Q2 2012. IHS iSuppli anticipates strong sales for the iPad 3, with demand expected to outstrip supply for several months. The new device is reported to feature a QXGA retina display with a pixel format of 2048*1536, as well as Siri assistant. As with previous iPad releases, Apple is anticipated to stage a massive rollout, introducing the new product in different countries around the globe as supply improves.
New Tablet Roll-Outs Cause Price Drops
The fourth-quarter introduction of value-priced tablets, most notably the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, created chaos across the Android tablet marketplace, forcing competitors to slash pricing in order to clear inventory.
“The surge in non-iPad shipments in the fourth quarter was achieved at considerable financial cost, with sharp price reductions across most of the competing Android tablets and actual product giveaways from a number of vendors as part of promotional efforts for other electronic products,” noted Mr. Alexander.
In the wake of the new low bar for pricing set by the Fire and the Nook and the looming Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility, manufacturers and branded vendors are looking to Windows 8 tablets as a more profitable alternative. Watch for a surge of Windows 8 and ARM microprocessor-based tablets in late 2012 and early 2013.
Apple Maintains 2011 Tablet Lead
For the entire year of 2011, Apple shipped 40.5 million iPad and iPad 2 media tablets, up 168% from 15.1 million in 2010. This gave the company a 62% share for the year, down from the dominant 87% in 2010, when Apple had the media tablet market all to itself for most of the year.
Despite Amazon’s strong showing at the end of the year, Samsung held on to second place, with shipments of its Galaxy Tab line amounting to 6.1 million units, or 9.4% of the 2011 market. Amazon’s share for the year amounted to 6%.
Year-end media tablet shipments came in at 65.2 million units, slightly above the IHS dorecast of 64.7 million units.