IDC has confirmed a "steep drop" in shipments of Android-based tablets as Apple continues to dominate the lucrative market with its wildly popular iPad.
"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," explained IDC analyst Tom Mainelli.
"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."
According to IDC, Cupertino shipped 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, down from 15.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, effectively increasing its worldwide share from 54.7% in 4Q11 to 68% in 1Q12. Meanwhile, 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.
As expected, Samsung took advantage of Amazon's weakness to regain the number two position, as Lenovo vaulted into the number four spot, followed by Barnes & Noble at number five.
Although total Android shipments were down significantly in 1Q12, Mainelli emphasized that companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are beginning to gain traction in the market with new Android devices - prompting projections of a quick rebound 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.
"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."
Another critical variable tracked by IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell is Windows 8 tablets, which are widely expected to ship by the fourth quarter in time for the winter holiday season. Pricing for the new tablets - both x86 and ARM - have yet to be announced, but will clearly be an important factor in terms of sales.
"The worldwide tablet market is entering a new phase in the second half of 2012 that will undoubtedly reshape the competitive landscape," said O'Donnell.
"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."