Amazon’s Kindle Fire reduces Apple’s lead, but iPad still rules holiday quarter with 58 percent market share

Apple’s iPad maintained its market lead throughout fourth quarter of last year even though it lost some ground compared to the previous quarter due to an influx of Android-based tablets. In fact, Amazon’s dirt-cheap Kindle Fire device that costs just $199 saved the day for Android slates, really. This is the gist of the latest survey by research firm Strategy Analytics that was released this morning.

Global tablet shipments reached 26.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011— up 150 percent from 10.7 million from the year-ago quarter. Global tablet shipments hit 66.9 million units throughout 2011— a 260 percent increase from just 18.6 million units in 2010. Looking at how tablet vendors performed throughout Q4 2011, the survey recorded a 39.1 percent share for tablets powered by Android. Even though it is a record for tablets driven by Google’s software, Apple sold 15.43 million iPads during the holiday quarter for a healthy 57.6 percent share. This left the remaining 3 percent for tablets outside the Android/iOS tablet duopoly, with Microsoft-driven devices holding onto 1 percent share of the market.

This compares to a Strategy Analytics’ survey for the September 2011 quarter that depicted a 27 percent share for Android tablets in Q3 2011 (up from 2.3 percent in Q3 2010) and 67 percent for iPad (down from 96 percent in Q3 2010). Android tablets are clearly picking up steam, largely based on the success of Amazon’s device that launched Oct. 15, 2011. Still, the iPad is expected to remain king of the hill as analysts expect its lead to maintain throughout 2012.

Strategy Analytics Research Director Peter King opined:

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ChangeWave: Shoppers predominantly want Apple’s iPad or Amazon’s Kindle Fire for the holidays

ChangeWave Research in a new survey polled 3,043 consumers on consumer tablet demand for the holidays, including a close-up look at demand for the Amazon Kindle Fire vs. the Apple iPad. Overall, tablets are big this holidays as sales in the United States increase an estimated 130 percent.

Everybody wants a tablet, it seems. A total of 14 percent of respondents plan on buying a tablet in the next 90 days, an eight percentage points increase over an August ChangeWave survey and more than triple the level of a year ago. However, nowadays shoppers no longer have to pick between an iPad or an array of same-looking Android tablets because Amazon is now the second most-popular tablet brand (people clearly want an Amazon tablet).

According to ChangeWave:

The Amazon Kindle Fire is going to leapfrog the competition and become the number two product in the tablet market, as long as it can provide a quality user experience. But the Amazon surge may also contain a silver lining for Apple, by damaging the tablet market hopes of the remaining competitors in the field.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) plan on buying an iPad, or two out of three tablet buyers. People are loving their iPads and it shows in satisfaction ratings. A total of 74 percent of all iPad owners are Very Satisfied versus 49 percent for all other tablet manufacturers combined. More than one in five, or 22 percent, eye an Amazon tablet and just four percent plan on buying a Galaxy Tab from Samsung. Apple’s score is in line with iPad’s IDC-estimated 68 percent share of the tablet market. In addition, Canalys projected Apple will overtake Hewlett-Packard to become the #1 PC maker globally on the heels of iPad 3 release, although not everybody is down with counting iPad as a computer. More tidbits and charts after the break.

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