Analysts Increase Tablet Sales Forecasts Based on Strong New iPad Demand

Don’t be surprised if you start seeing more tablet computers than laptops at coffee shops soon. Analysts expect worldwide media tablet shipments to increase significantly in 2012, thanks in large part to the growing popularity of the iPad, according to a new study from the International Data Corporation, a global market research firm.

In a newly released survey, the IDC reported that the global shipments of tablets grew to 28.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011—a 155 percent increase from the same time period in 2011.

And, despite the popularity of Amazon’s 7-inch, $199 Kindle—a relative steal, at least price-wise, compared to the cheapest $499 iPad model—it’s Apple that led the market, shipping 15.4 million units in 2011’s fourth quarter, up from 11.1 million units in the third quarter.

Based on these numbers, IDC anticipates shipments for all tablets will increase significantly in the coming months.

Tom Mainelli, a research director for IDC’s Mobile Connected Devices program says Amazon’s Kindle Fire has helped fuel growth in the market.

“Amazon’s widely-reported entry into the media tablet market … seemed to raise consumers’ awareness of the category worldwide despite the fact that the Fire shipped almost exclusively in the U.S. in the fourth quarter,” Mainielli said in a press release.

“As a result, products across the pricing spectrum sold well, including everything from Apple’s premium-priced iPads … to Pandigital’s line of Android-based, entry-level tablets [which start at $120],” Mainelli added. “The success of market leader Apple was particularly noteworthy, as the company’s shipment total for the quarter represents an increase of 110.5 percent from [2011’s fourth quarter].”

As such, based on the strong numbers for the previous year, IDC has adjusted its 2012 shipment forecast, predicting 105.1 million units—a notable jump from its original 87.7 million unit projection.

But, despite Apple’s continued dominance, the behemoth company is not necessarily infallible—at least not if you go strictly by the numbers. Although Apple shipped 15.4 million units in the fourth quarter—up from 11.1 million in 2011’s third quarter, the company’s worldwide market share slipped from 54.7 percent to 61.5 percent in the same time period.

Compared to Amazon’s numbers, however, it’s clear that Apple’s hold on the market remains relatively steady for now. Amazon shipped only 4.7 million Kindle Fires,  placing the company squarely in second place behind Apple.

Samsung logged third place on the list, growing its market share from 5.5 percent to 5.8 percent while Barnes & Nook came in at fourth as the book retailer’s e-reader saw its global market share slip from 3.5 percent, down from 4.5 percent. Pandigital is fifth with a slight decrease in its global market numbers; the company’s share slipped from 2.9 percent to 2.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the Android operating system saw strong numbers in 2011’s fourth quarter—due in large part to success of the Kindle Fire which runs a custom version of Google’s OS on its platform. Android’s market share increased from 32.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 44.6 percent in the fourth quarter. In the same time period, Apple’s iOS’s market share dropped from 61.6 percent to 54.7 percent.

“As the sole vendor shipping iOS products, Apple will remain dominant in terms of worldwide vendor unit shipments,” Mainelli said. “However, the sheer number of vendors shipping low-priced, Android-based tablets means that Google’s OS will overtake Apple’s in terms of worldwide market share by 2015.”

Still, despite Google’s increasing market share, IDC predicts Apple’s not in imminent danger of losing its hold.  Despite its higher price points, Apple is still considered an industry leader.

“We expect iOS to remain the revenue market share leader through the end of our 2016 forecast period and beyond,” Manellis said.

[via BusinessWire]

About Rachel: Rachel is a writer living in Northern California. She spends way too much time online; follow her at @writegrrrl