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Android Tablets Will Overtake iPad by 2015, Say Analysts

The International Data Corporation reports that worldwide media tablet shipments to retailers rose by 56.1-percent on a sequential basis in 4Q11 to 28.2 million units worldwide. That's an increase of 155-percent from the same time period in 2010. On a whole, 2011 saw 68.7 million units fly across store shelves, and IDC predicts that consumers will eat up 106.1 million tablets in 2012 alone.

In 4Q11, Apple still remained the champ, owning 54.7-percent of the tablet market and pushing out 15.4 million units, up from 11.1 million units in 3Q11. Amazon came in second place, owning 16.8-percent of the worldwide market -- and shipping almost exclusively in the U.S. -- 4.7 million Kindle Fire into the market. Samsung came in third place with a 5.8-percent share followed by Barnes & Noble with its new Nook Tablet (3.5-percent) and Pandigital (2.5-percent).

"As predicted, Android made some strong gains in 4Q11, thanks in large part to the Amazon Kindle Fire's success (the Fire runs a custom version of Google's Android OS)," the report states. "Android grew its market share from 32.3-percent in 3Q11 to 44.6-percent in 4Q11. As a result, iOS slipped from 61.6-percent market share to 54.7-percent; Blackberry slipped from 1.1-percent to 0.-percent. WebOS, which owned 5-percent of the worldwide market in 3Q11, dropped to zero in 4Q11. Looking ahead, IDC expects Android to continue to grow its share of the market at the expense of iOS."

In 2012, IDC predicts that 60 million iPads will ship to retail outlets whereas Android will only ship 46.9 million units. But in 2016 that will likely change, as Apple is only expected to ship 94.7 units that year, eclipsed by 100.8 million Android tablets. Android is actually expected to overtake iPad by 2015 thanks to the sheer number of vendors shipping low-priced, Android-based tablets. Still, iOS is expected to remain the revenue market share leader through the end of IDC's 2016 forecast period and beyond.

Despite the popularity of tablets in 4Q11, ePaper-based eReaders also experienced stronger-than-expected growth. That was due to to sharp price cuts in established markets such as the U.S. and Canada, as well as increasing shipments in regions outside of North America.

"In 4Q11 the worldwide total increased to 10.7 million units, up from 6.5 million units in 3Q11," the firm reports. "That represents a quarter-over-quarter improvement of 64.6-percent and a year-over-year improvement of 64.3-percent. IDC expects growth to continue in 2012 as major players such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo look to expand into new international markets."

Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices, says that publishers in markets outside of North America are only just beginning to warm up to the idea of eBooks. "Once Amazon and others persuade these content owners to embrace digital formats, we expect eBook reader shipments into these regions to increase more rapidly," he said.