Android's tablet shipments triple, says study

Apple still dominates the tablet market with the iPad

Sales of Android-based tablets to retailers more than tripled during the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Strategy Analytics. Global tablet shipments reached 26.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 150 percent increase from 10.7 million during the same period in 2010.

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Consumers are increasingly choosing tablets over netbooks and even entry-level notebooks or desktops, Strategy Analytics said.

Android is picking up momentum, and together vendors backing the operating system shipped 10.5 million units, compared to 3.1 million a year ago. That gives Android a 39.1 percent share of global tablet shipments, compared to 29 percent a year earlier. That does not necessarily translate to user sales, and several other surveys suggest that iPad sales to users are 75 percent or more of the units sold.

Apple's share of sales to retailers dropped from 68.2 percent to 57.6 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. Apple shipped 15.4 million tablets during the fourth quarter, up from 7.3 million during the same period last year.

Apple shrugged off the much-hyped threat from entry-level Android-based models, and CEO Tim Cook took a swipe at Android vendors' fuzzy numbers, noting that Apple reports only units sold to people. It is inevitable that Apple loses market share as more vendors enter the tablet space, according to Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics. But its tablet business is still growing at a healthy rate, he said.

Microsoft captured just 1.5 percent of the tablet market among retailers during the last three months of 2011. The upcoming release of Windows 8 later this year can't come quickly enough for Microsoft, allowing its hardware partners to start competing more effectively, according to Strategy Analytics.

In 2011, 66.9 million tablets were shipped, up 260 percent from 18.6 million in 2010, Strategy Analytics said.

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