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Apple increased its market share in "media tablets" in the second quarter of the year even as new Android tablets were launched, while BlackBerry-maker Rim sold fewer than 700,000 of its PlayBook tablet, according to new figures released by analysts IDC.
IDC also raised its forecast for the number of tablets that will be shipped this year by 17%, from 53.5m to 62.5m - in marked contrast to its gloomy downrating of personal computer shipments, where it has repeatedly cut growth forecasts this year, most recently this week when it suggested that PC shipments will grow by less than 3% this year. Overall, IDC expects a total of 357m PCs to be shipped in 2011.
IDC's forecast, if correct, would mean the media tablet market was 17.5%, or slightly less than a fifth, as large as the PC market in unit terms. But that indicates explosive growth compared to 2010, when 18m tablets shipped, or about 5% in unit terms compared to the 347m PC shipments. Apple had an 83% share of tablet shipments in 2010, IDC says.
The analysis, which covers the period from April to June but has only just been released, says that 13.6m media tablets were shipped (but not necessarily sold) in the period, with Apple's iPad 2 taking 9.3m – a 68.3% share, up from 65.7% in the previous quarter.
Apple's dominance means that the tablet market is beginning to look much more like the MP3 player market, where Apple was a comparatively early entrant and quickly grabbed significant market share – leaving a large number of companies which relied on one company's operating system software, widely licensed, each with small market shares. For MP3 players, the software was Microsoft's Windows Media Player; for tablets, it is Android.
That is in marked contrast to the smartphone market, where Android has taken a market-leading 40% share globally, displacing Nokia's Symbian, and is winning new customers who are switching from older "feature phones". Feature phone sales dropped in western Europe in the second quarter for the first time, while smartphone sales grew substantially.
Rim's entry with the PlayBook, which it officially said in July had shipped 500,000 in April and May, achieved a 4.9% shipment share over the quarter to June according to IDC. That equates to 666,000 devices, suggesting that shipments slowed down dramatically in June. (Rim's latest quarterly results, covering the period from June to August, are due on Thursday evening UK time.)
Its appearance also pushed down the share of Android tablets, which fell from 34.0% in the first quarter to 26.8%.
In absolute terms, IDC says the tablet market grew between the first and second quarters from 7.2m units to 13.6m. Android tablet shipments grew substantially, from 2.45m to 3.64m, an increase of nearly 50%. Apple's iPad shipments grew from 4.73m to 9.3m, a 97% growth.
IDC suggests that Android tablets will actually see their share fall as low as 23% in the third quarter, which runs from July to the end of September, before growing to 25.9% in the fourth quarter, because of HP's decisions to discontinue its TouchPad tablet and sell them at knock-down price that has cost the company millions in refunds to retailers and customers who bought it at the full price.
"In addition to continued demand for Apple iPads, IDC expects many consumers who were on the fence about buying a media tablet to scoop up $99 TouchPads as a result of HP's decision to end production of its tablet product," the company said in a statement. "IDC expects close to a million TouchPads to ship into the channel before the end of the year. As a result, WebOS's worldwide market share is forecast to reach 4.7% in 3Q11. However, with no clear plan to license or sell the OS to other vendors, IDC expects the WebOS market share to shrink back to zero by 1Q12."
"Apple's iOS share will continue to lead by more than 40 percentage points over Google's Android for the remainder of the year, but we expect Apple's share to fall closer to 50% by the end of the forecast period as manufacturers bring new tablets to market," said Jennifer Song, IDC research analyst, Worldwide Trackers.
Amazon sold about 2.7m of its Kindle e-readers in the second quarter as it took 51.7% of the e-reader market, IDC says. The second-larger share was taken by Barnes & Noble's reader, with 21.2%, in a market totalling 5.4m units in total for the quarter.