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Android bites big chunk out of Apple iPad market share

Set to leap ahead in 2011?

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The world's computer makers shipped 17.6m tablets during 2010, 9.7m of them in Q4 alone.

It'll surprise no one that the full-year total was dominated by Apple, which shipped 14.8m iPads during the year - it was actually on sale for just nine months or so - or 84.1 per cent of the total, numbers from market watcher Strategy Analytics show.

Android came equally out of nowhere to capture 13.1 per cent of the market with total shipments of 2.3m units, by far the majority of them being Samsung Galaxy Tabs.

Almost all of the Android machines shipped in Q4, taking Android's quarterly share of the market to 21.6 per cent and knocking Apple's back to 75.3 per cent.

It would have taken spectacular sales to drive Apple's shipments so far ahead of the curve that the introduction of a major-brand alternative to the iPad wouldn't impact Apple's market share no matter how many units Samsung shipped, so it's important not to read too much into the decline.

This is a new market, just starting and of course the initial player is going to have its dominance challenged and reduced.

The catch-all Others category notched up shipments of barely 500,000 units worldwide, but that's enough for a full-year 2.8 per cent share - 3.1 per cent in Q4 - so Tablet PC fans needn't be too unhappy. Punters are still buying these chunky laptop convertibles. Just.

Looking ahead, Strategy Analytics made the obvious point that Android's share will grow, though it declined to forecast by how much. Almost all the major computing and mobile players will introduce Android-based tablets during the current and the next quarters, with only Rim's BlackBerry PlayBook, the Apple iPad 2 and the HP WebOS tablet standing out from the Honeycomb horde.

With no firmly established incumbent, we expect Android to take the tablet OS lead far, far faster than it did in the smartphone arena. But equally, it's going to be very hard for any one Android supporter to build up a market share to match that of Apple, at least for the time being. ®

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