As an example of having yourself as your enemy, Apple Inc.'s own products have eaten away at each other's market shares. Case in point: it was not Kindle Fire or any other tablet but the iPhone 4S that has proven to be the strongest competitor for the iPad during the final three months of last year, according to IHS Inc.
The company shipped 15.4 million iPads and iPad 2 in 4Q11. But while shipments were up 39 percent from 11.1 million in the Q3, Apple's share of the global media tablet market slipped to 57 percent in Q4, down from 64 percent Q3, added the market research firm.
"Shipments of the iPad line fell short of IHS estimates in Q4 as many loyal Apple customers devoted their dollars to shiny new alternatives," stated Rhoda Alexander, senior manager, tablet and monitor research for IHS. "However, the primary alternative wasn't the Kindle Fire—which debuted to solid sales in the fourth quarter—but Apple's own iPhone 4S smartphone. The rollout of the iPhone 4S in October generated intense competition for Apple purchasers' disposable income, doing more to limit iPad shipment growth than competition from the Kindle Fire and other media tablets."
The debut performance of the Kindle Fire played a strong role in the share shift as well, particularly in the U.S. market, which accounted for more than half of global Q4 media tablet sales. Amazon shipped 3.9 million Fire tablets in Q4, allowing the company to garner a double-digit share of the market, at 14.3 percent. This drove Amazon to become the world's second-largest tablet shipper in Q4, surpassing Samsung Electronics.
For the entire 2011, Apple shipped 40.5 million iPads and iPad 2, up 168 percent from 15.1 million in 2010. This gave the company a 62 percent share for the year, down from the dominant 87 percent in 2010, when Apple had the media tablet market all to itself for most of the year.
Despite Amazon's strong showing at the end of the year, Samsung held on to second place, with shipments of its Galaxy Tab line amounting to 6.1 million units, or 9.4 percent of the 2011 market. Amazon's share for the year amounted to six percent.
The fourth-quarter introduction of value-priced tablets, most notably the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook, created chaos across the Android tablet marketplace, forcing competitors to slash pricing in order to clear inventory. "The surge in non-iPad shipments in Q4 was achieved at considerable financial cost, with sharp price reductions across most of the competing Android tablets and actual product giveaways from a number of vendors as part of promotional efforts for other electronic products," Alexander said.
In the wake of the new low bar for pricing set by the Fire and the Nook and the looming Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility, manufacturers and branded vendors are looking to Windows 8 tablets as a more profitable alternative, seen to arrive late this year or early next year.
Apple is set to reclaim its tablet market share when it resumes volume shipments of the next version of the iPad that is expected in 2Q12. IHS anticipates strong sales for the iPad 3, with demand expected to outstrip supply for several months. The new device is reported to feature a QXGA retina display with a pixel format of 2,048 by 1,536, as well as Siri, the voice interface of the iPhone 4S. As with previous iPad releases, Apple is anticipated to stage a staggered rollout, introducing the new product in different countries around the globe as supply improves.
As a final statement, year-end media tablet shipments came in at 65.2 million units, slightly above the IHS forecast of 64.7 million units.
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