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Research firm IDC predicted there would be a steep drop off in tablet shipments during Q1 of 2012. Following the surge of sales during the holiday season, a fall of 34 percent, while certainly staggering, is hardly surprising. But there's bad news: shipments failed to meet even those bleak predictions. Shipments fell by 38.4 percent, thanks in large part to Android slates stumbling dramatically. After a reasonably impressive holiday season, IDC expected Android would continue to make inroads in the market. Instead, the number of units moved dropped drastically, allowing Apple to not just maintain its position at the top of the heap, but assert an unquestionable dominance not seen since the early days of Honeycomb. After accounting for 54.7 percent of all tablet shipments in Q4 of 2011, the iPad opened up an impressive lead, claiming 68 percent of the market in Q1 of 2012. What's more, after catapulting to the number two spot by shipping 4.8 million units at the end of last year, Amazon fell to number three -- accounting for only 4 percent of tablets shipped, a precipitous fall from 16.8 percent last quarter. That's good news for Samsung, however, which reclaimed its place as first runner up slate wars. For more, check out the PR after the break.

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Apple Shines, But Slumping Android Shipments Lead to Disappointing First Quarter for Media Tablets, According to IDC

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A steep drop in shipments of Android-based tablets offset a strong quarter from Apple and caused the media tablet market to miss projections for the first quarter of 2012 (1Q12), according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker. Total worldwide media tablet shipments for the quarter reached 17.4 million units in 1Q12, 1.2 million units below IDC's projection for the quarter. While IDC predicted a sharp seasonal slowdown of -34% from the previous quarter's record-breaking 28.2 million units, the actual decline was slightly steeper at -38.4%. The total still represents a robust year-over-year growth rate of 120%, up from 7.9 million units in the first quarter of 2011.

"Apple reasserted its dominance in the market this quarter, driving huge shipment totals at a time when all but a few Android vendors saw their numbers drop precipitously after posting big gains during the holiday buying season"
"Apple reasserted its dominance in the market this quarter, driving huge shipment totals at a time when all but a few Android vendors saw their numbers drop precipitously after posting big gains during the holiday buying season," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices at IDC. "Apple's move to position the iPad as an all-purpose tablet, instead of just a content consumption device, is resonating with consumers as well as educational and commercial buyers. And its decision to keep a lower-priced iPad 2 in the market after it launched the new iPad in March seems to be paying off as well."

Apple shipped 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, down from 15.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, and grew its worldwide share from 54.7% in 4Q11 to 68% in 1Q12. Amazon, which stormed into the market in 4Q11 to grab second place with 16.8% of the market on shipment of 4.8 million units, saw its share decline significantly in the first quarter to just over 4%, falling to third place as a result. Samsung took advantage of Amazon's weakness to regain the number two position while Lenovo vaulted into the number four spot, followed by Barnes & Noble at number five.

Although total Android shipments were down sharply in 1Q12, companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are beginning to gain traction in the market with their latest generation of Android products. IDC expects the segment to rebound quickly as other vendors introduce new products in the second quarter and beyond.

"It seems some of the mainstream Android vendors are finally beginning to grasp a fact that Amazon, B&N, and Pandigital figured out early on: Namely, to compete in the media tablet market with Apple, they must offer their products at notably lower price points," Mainelli added. "We expect a new, larger-screened device from Amazon at a typically aggressive price point, and Google will enter the market with an inexpensive, co-branded ASUS tablet designed to compete directly on price with Amazon's Kindle Fire. The search giant's new tablet will run a pure version of Android, whereas the Fire runs Amazon's own forked version of the OS that cuts Google out of the picture."

The impact that Microsoft Windows 8- and Windows RT-based tablets, which are widely expected to ship into the market by the fourth quarter, will have on the overall tablet market is yet to be determined. Pricing on the new Windows tablets hasn't been announced, and that will be a critical factor when it comes to winning over consumers. Consumer reception to the new OS and the success of integration with traditional Windows systems will also be critical.

"The worldwide tablet market is entering a new phase in the second half of 2012 that will undoubtedly reshape the competitive landscape," said Bob O'Donnell, program vice president, Clients and Displays. "While Apple will continue to sit comfortably on the top for now, the battle for the next several positions is going to be fierce. Throw in Ultrabooks, the launch of Windows 8, and a few surprise product launches, and you have all the makings of an incredible 2012 holiday shopping season."

About IDC

International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community to make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,000 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries. For more than 48 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology media, research, and events company. You can learn more about IDC by visiting www.idc.com.

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IDC: Apple makes big gains in tablet market, Android stumbles