We've already seen Apple boast that it's sold 15 million iPads in 2010 and commanded more than a 90 percent market share, but IDC has now come in and provided a broader picture of the tablet market as a whole -- and e-readers, too. Not surprisingly, it too found that the tablet industry is basically all about Apple at the moment, although its market share did dip from a whopping 93 percent in the third quarter to 73 percent in Q4, which averages out to 83 percent for the year -- all told, there were 18 million tablets sold in 2010. Things are a bit more competitive in the e-reader market -- where there were 12 million devices sold -- although Amazon is still head and shoulders above everyone else with a 48 percent share. Interestingly, it's followed not by Barnes & Noble as you might expect but by Pandigital, which just eeked into the number two spot for Q4 (though B&N is slightly ahead for the full year). Hanvon came in fourth based largely on strong sales in China, and Sony rounded out the top five with sales of 800,000 units in 2010. Check out the press release after the break for some additional details
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Nearly 18 Million Media Tablets Shipped in 2010 with Apple Capturing 83% Share; eReader Shipments Quadrupled to More Than 12 Million, According to IDC

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., March 10, 2011 - According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker, 10.1 million media tablets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010 (4Q10) - more than double the 4.5 million shipped in the third quarter. Apple's share came down from 93% in 3Q10 to 73% in 4Q10, but still reflected Apple's strong leadership position. Samsung's Galaxy Tab was the primary competitor in the holiday season, beating other players to market and capturing more than 17% share, while a number of smaller regional players also participated.

The Tracker showed that the eReader market also picked up significantly in the fourth quarter. Strong sales of Amazon's Kindle, which was refreshed in August and priced more aggressively, as well as significant gains from competitors such as Pandigital, Barnes & Noble, Hanvon, and Sony among others, contributed to market growth.

In 4Q10, the eReader market more than doubled volume from the previous quarter, with more than 6 million units shipped for the quarter, bringing the full-year total to 12.8 million units shipped. eReader shipments were also up more than 325% from 2009 when roughly 3 million units shipped. The strong growth reflects a more competitive offering as well as widening interest in the category, including a boost from media tablet press and much lower pricing.

"Strong holiday sales of media tablets were in line with IDC projections and strong consumer interest in the category while device vendors scrambled to offer products competitive with Apple's iPad and now iPad 2," said Loren Loverde, vice president, Consumer Device Trackers. "Media Tablets are on pace to reach shipments of roughly 50 million units in 2011."

According to IDC, media tablets are tablet form factor devices with color displays larger than 5 in. and smaller than 14 in. running lightweight operating systems (such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS) and can be based on either x86 or ARM processors. By contrast, tablet PCs run full PC operating systems and are based on x86 processors. Media tablets support multiple connectivity technologies and a broad range of applications, which differentiates them from single purpose–focused devices such as eReaders. Media tablet market evolution will be driven not only by product introductions from PC, consumer electronics, and mobile phone vendors, but also by expanded distribution channels (with mobile operators playing a key role) and commercial adoption by businesses.

According to IDC, the United States, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) regions accounted for 89% of all media tablet shipments in 4Q10. Although the United States remained the largest country market, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) grew almost twice as fast from 3Q10 to 4Q10 and Western Europe saw a slightly larger jump in shipments in 4Q10.

In 4Q10, retailers were the channel with the highest share of shipments, followed by direct and telco sales. A new channel for media tablets, the telco operators, accounted for nearly 14% of all shipments of media tablets in 4Q10 following just over 1% share in the third quarter.

Vendor Highlights: Media Tablets

Apple is building on its strong 2010 first-generation iPad launch with the iPad 2, which will ship this month, before most competitors come to market with first generation media tablets. Although more competing devices will be launched this year, IDC expects Apple to maintain a 70-80% share of the market.

Samsung started shipping its 7 in. Galaxy Tab media tablet in 4Q10. Although its shipments into the channel were fairly aggressive, a lack of competitive pricing and ongoing competition from Apple stifled consumer demand. Samsung is expected to follow with a 10.1 in. Galaxy Tab with Android 3.0 Honeycomb later this year, but the refresh will have a tough time maintaining share as more competitors enter the market.

The recently launched Motorola Xoom is a worthy competitor in function, although the relatively high price is expected to be a barrier to gaining significant share.

Other vendors and designs are expected to hit the market in earnest in the second half of 2011. Many of these products will be more competitive in function, like the Xoom, but we expect only those from large vendors with significant marketing and channel structure in addition to a few technologically and price competitive devices to capture significant share. One differentiation path that some vendors are likely to take is to focus on specific market segments, such as commercial. While benefitting from unique product positioning, they are likely to address a smaller overall market and will need to be competitive with devices from Apple and others.
Vendor Highlights: eReaders

Amazon continued to lead the eReader market holding just over 48% share in 4Q10 and 2010 overall. Amazon's share recovered in 4Q10 with shipments of the refreshed Kindle (3) after dipping under 40% in 3Q10.

Barnes and Noble began shipping the NOOKcolor color LCD-based ereader in 4Q10 to support children's books, periodicals, and other graphically rich content. The NOOKcolor is more expensive than epaper-based ereaders and offers a lower priced, less feature-rich alternative to a full-fledged media tablet.

Pandigital edged out Barnes and Noble for the number 2 spot in 4Q10, although the latter came in slightly ahead on an annual basis.

Hanvon of China came in as the number 4 eReader vendor with a sequential gain in volume. Half of Hanvon shipments were in China, where it leads the market, but where eReader growth remained modest. International shipments faced greater competition, pushing share down overall.

Worldwide Sony Reader shipments grew 80.7% during 4Q10 and exceeded 800,000 units for 2010.

The Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker includes quarterly shipment and forecast analysis for over 30 countries including market size and vendor share along with detailed market segmentation and product attributes such as operating system, connectivity, and storage capacity among others.

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IDC: 18 million tablets, 12 million e-readers shipped in 2010