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Tablet Sales Will Soar 54 Percent This Year, IDC Says

Tablet shipments will increase this year by a better-than-predicted 54 percent as Inc.’s lower-priced challenge to Apple Inc.’s iPad stokes awareness of the devices, International Data Corp. said.

IDC, a research company that tracks technology sales, boosted its estimate for global tablet shipments in 2012 by 21 percent to 106.1 million after sales last year rose more than it anticipated. A total of 68.7 million units were sold in 2011, Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC said in a statement today.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which started shipping in November and costs less than half the price of Apple’s cheapest iPad, increased tablet adoption industrywide, said Tom Mainelli, a research director at IDC. Amazon shipped 4.7 million Kindle Fires in the fourth quarter, giving it 16.8 percent of the market and putting it in the No. 2 spot behind Apple, IDC said.

“Products across the pricing spectrum sold well,” Mainelli said in the statement. “Amazon’s widely reported entry into the media tablet market with a $199, 7-inch product seemed to raise consumers’ awareness of the category worldwide.”

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, shipped 15.4 million units in the quarter, compared with 11.1 million in the previous three months, seeing its market share slip to 54.7 percent from just more than 61 percent, according to IDC.

Android Tablets

Lower-priced vendors such as Seattle-based Amazon, whose Kindle Fire runs on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, will help Android-based tablets overtake Apple in unit sales by 2015, IDC said. Android, used by multiple manufacturers, made up 44.6 percent of the tablet market in the fourth quarter, up from 32.3 percent in the previous three months, the researcher said.

Estimates for Kindle Fire shipments have differed among analysts and research firms. IHS Inc. projected almost a million fewer than IDC -- 3.89 million -- last month, indicating the Fire grabbed a 14 percent share in the fourth quarter.

Amazon hasn’t released sales figures for any of its Kindle devices beyond saying in January that units sold in the nine-week period ending Dec. 31 increased 177 percent from the same time the previous year. The Seattle-based company said the Kindle Fire was the best-selling item on its site at the time.

Ross Sandler, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, has predicted 3 million to 4 million Kindle Fire unit sales in the fourth quarter, while Jordan Rohan at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. projected as many as 6 million, and Anthony DiClemente at Barclays Capital pegged shipments at 5 million. All three analysts are based in New York.

“It’s really difficult to get an actual number,” said Brian Nowak, an analyst at Nomura Securities in New York, who estimates Amazon sold about 5 million Kindle Fires in the fourth quarter. “You talk to the different suppliers and you read through what IDC and all those guys say, but it is hard.”

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