IDC: Apple Tablet Market Share Slips to 73% in Q4

Apple’s share of the tablet marker slipped to 73% in the December quarter, down from 93% in the September quarter, according to market research firm IDC, while the market as a whole grew more than 200%. Samsung with it’s Galaxy Tab Android tablet was the only competitor of note, coming in a distant second with 17% of the market. IDC expects Apple to maintain 70-80% market share through 2011.

The vast majority of the tablet market is so far based in North America and Europe, accounting for 89% of global tablet sales, according to IDC. There are, however, “a number of smaller regional players,” most of them based in Asia.

“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,” Loren Loverde, vice president, Consumer Device Trackers for IDC, said in a statement. “Media Tablets are on pace to reach shipments of roughly 50 million units in 2011.”

Tablet markers sold 10.1 million devices in the December quarter, up from 4.5 million in the Septemer quarter.

IDC also noted that Apple’s introduction of its second generation iPad 2 is putting pressure on the market, where most of Apple’s would-be competitors haven’t even managed to ship a 1st generation product. IDC believes that this allow Apple to maintain its iPod-sized share of the tablet market through 2011.

The firm also noted that while Samsung had an aggressive push into the retailer channel with its 7” Galaxy Tab, the high price and Apple’s iPad “stifled consumer demand” for the device. The report deemed Motorola’s Xoom, “a worthy competitor in fucntion,” but said that its high price is also going to prevent Moto from gaining any traction with the device.

Indeed, IDC sees the function/price bar set by Apple to be an ongoing problem for any company thinking to enter the tablet market. Vertical markets and other niches may offer the biggest chance for anyone to make headway against Apple’s tablet.

“One differentiation path that some vendors are likely to take is to focus on specific market segments, such as commercial,” IDC wrote in its report. “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.”

We should also note that IDC is now officially describing what it is segmenting as the “media tablet” market. The firm is defining media tablets as devices with color displayer between 5” and 14” running “lightweight operatin systems” (iOS, Android) powered by ARM or x86 processors. Tablets running full operating systems like Windows 7 are x86 devices and are called tablet PCs in IDC’s industry breakdown.