El Segundo, Calif. - Amazon became the world's second-largest supplier of tablets in the fourth quarter to replace Samsung for the No. 2 spot, and Apple's share fell quarter-over-quarter, IHS said.
The debut of Amazon's Kindle Fire "played a strong role in the share shift," particularly in the U.S. market, which accounted for more than half of global media tablet sales in the fourth quarter, IHS said. But the launch of the iPhone 4S in the quarter contributed more to the iPad's share decline, IHS contended. "The rollout of the iPhone 4S in October generated intense competition for Apple purchasers' disposable income, doing more to limit iPad shipment growth than competition from the Kindle Fire and other media tablets," said Rhoda Alexander, tablet and monitor research senior manager.
During the quarter, Apple's unit share fell to 57 percent from the third-quarter's 64 percent, while Amazon share hit 14 percent with shipments of 3.9 million Fire tablets. (See table.) Amazon's tablet was not available in the third quarter. Barnes & Noble share also rose in the quarter to 7 percent from the previous quarter's 4 percent, while Samsung and Asus shares slipped.
For the quarter, suppliers shipped 27.1 million tablets worldwide, up from the third quarter's 17.4 million, putting full-year shipments at 65.2 million.
For the full year, Apple shipped 40.5 million iPads, up 168 percent from 15.1 million in 2010, but Apple's share nonetheless fell to 62 percent for the year from 87 percent in 2010, when Apple was alone in the tablet market for most of the year, IHS said. Samsung maintained its second-place share for the full year with a 9.4 percent share, followed by Amazon's 6 percent.
The fourth-quarter introduction of value-priced tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook "created chaos" in the Android tablet market, forcing Android suppliers to slash pricing to get rid of inventory, IHS noted. As a result, "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," Alexander said.
Android pricing declines, combined with Google's planned acquisition of Motorola Mobility, will cause suppliers to turn Windows 8 tablets as a more profitable alternative, added IHS, which forecast a surge in Windows 8 and ARM microprocessor-based tablets in late 2012 and early 2013.
For the next version of the iPad, expected to ship in the second quarter, IHS expects Apple to add a QXGA retina display with 2,048 by 1,536 pixels and the Siri voice interface.