Apple’s IPad Leads Surge in Tablet Shipments, Research Firm Says

Tablet-computer shipments more than doubled in the fourth quarter, reflecting demand for Apple Inc.’s iPad and Inc.’s new Kindle Fire, according to market-research firm Strategy Analytics.

Global tablet shipments rose to a record 26.8 million units in the last three months of 2011, up from 10.7 million a year earlier, Boston-based Strategy Analytics said in a report. Consumers are increasingly choosing tablets over laptop or desktop personal computers, the research firm said.

Even as Apple’s iPad shipments doubled, the company ceded market share to machines sporting Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Android tablets accounted for 39 percent of the market, up from 29 percent a year earlier, suggesting strong sales of Amazon’s Android-based Kindle Fire since its release in November. Apple, whose iPad was introduced in 2010, still led the market with a 58 percent share, down from 68 percent. Microsoft Corp. had 1.5 percent, Strategy Analytics said.

Apple said this week that it sold a record 15.4 million iPads in the quarter ended Dec. 31, generating $9.15 billion in sales. In less than two years, the device has become the company’s second-best selling product by revenue, behind the iPhone.

Amazon, based in Seattle, hasn’t disclosed how many tablets it has sold. The $199 Kindle Fire costs less than half the $499 price for Apple’s least-expensive iPad model. Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Mobility Holdings Corp., which is being acquired by Google, also have introduced tablets running Android software.

Eclipsing PCs?

“Android is so far proving relatively popular with tablet manufacturers,” Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the global tablet market will eventually be larger than the one for personal computers. On a conference call with financial analysts on Jan. 24, he said he didn’t see an impact on iPad sales after Amazon released the Kindle Fire.

“There’s clearly customers that will buy those, and I think they’ll sell a fair number of units, but I don’t think that people that want an iPad will settle for a limited function,” Cook said on the call.

Worldwide PC shipments declined 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter to 92.2 million units, Gartner Inc. said earlier this month, citing sluggish consumer demand.

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