IDC: Apple dominated tablet market with 83% share in 2010, to keep it in 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.

Source: IDC


  1. IDC total BS. Apple is the only company that spells out it’s tablet sales both channel and sell-thru. Others do not have them on their 10Q or an 8K. They use adjectives. So how in theworld do they know?

    It is worse in the e-reader space. Amazon uses adjectives and adverbs. This is just pure idiocy and shows you how gullible we are. We are supposed to take them at their word because they are PHDs or ivy-leaguers? This is how embers got away with it and destroyed AT&T. All with fraudulent stats echoed by the likes of you know who.

    1. Agree; IDC uses marketing BS and clueless ignorant guessing to compile such “reports”/”researches”. They have no idea what actually the market was — really.

      And yes, Apple reports key sales figures under threat of huge fines (and even possibly jailtime) dealing with SEC legislation.

      Samsung might claim whatever marketing BS, easily confuse unsold ship-first-pay-later shipments to sales chains with actual sales, and whatever else — and they will go with it easily.

  2. > 10.1 million media tablets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010 (4Q10)

    That’s “shipped,” NOT sold to customers. For Apple, SHIPPED equals SOLD within two weeks or so. For Android-based tablets, SHIPPED equals mostly sitting in someone’s inventory until the fire sale. Apple’s share of tablets actually sold in 4Q was no doubt well over 90%, not 73%. There is NO WAY over one-in-four tablets sold were Android tablets.

    1. Yes, especially considering that much of Apple’s sales are direct sales to customers — both online and retail. With that, there is even no two-weeks inventory/channel lag for that part of sales.

  3. If you go by shipped numbers the Kin 1 and 2 were a huge success.

    If Samsung weren’t embarrassed about the Tab numbers they’d have told us. 1 Million, 1.5 Million instead of smooth. Apple knew full well that the quote in Steve’s keynote was wrong, the fact that Samsung still hasn’t told us shows the sales were poor not smooth.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.