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HP surprisingly emerges as No. 2 tablet maker

The TouchPad fire sale did wonders for Hewlett-Packard's tablet business, according to an NPD study. That boost won't last much longer, though.

At least for now, Hewlett-Packard can lay claim as the second most-popular tablet manufacturer behind Apple.

Too bad, it'll be a short-lived reign.

HP exec Jon Rubinstein and the ill-fated TouchPad, back in February. James Martin/CNET

Despite all of the attention focused on Apple's iPad, other tablet makers have seen some adoption this year. In total, the U.S. tablet market--excluding Apple--saw sales of more than 1.2 million units and retail revenue of $415 million from January through October, according to a new study from NPD. HP stood on top of that non-iPad hill, closely followed by Samsung Electronics.

Of course, the market is still tiny when compared with Apple, which moved 11.1 million iPads in the last quarter alone.

That a fluke like the short-lived TouchPad--which launched July 1 for $499 but only sold well amid a fire sale in mid-August--was able to capture the No. 2 spot speaks to the fragmentation of the tablet market beyond Apple.

Despite Apple's dominance, NPD believes there is an opportunity for alternatives.

"According to NPD's consumer tracking service, 76 percent of consumers who purchased a non-Apple tablet didn't even consider the iPad, an indication that a large group of consumers are looking for alternatives, and an opportunity for the rest of the market to grow their business," said NPD analyst Stephen Baker.

HP managed to grab 17 percent of the share. Its TouchPad was snapped up quickly this summer when HP discontinued the tablet. The TouchPad's price cratered to $99, and retailers moved quickly to unload the tablets. Of course, the phenomenon was only temporary; HP has since run out of TouchPads and has no apparent plans to start up production again.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung has been in the tablet business longer than anyone outside of Apple, moving quickly to release the 7-inch Galaxy Tab a year ago. Since then, the company has released a variety of tablet sizes, including a 10.1-inch version that is able to connect to a high-speed wireless network. As a result, it had 16 percent of the non-iPad market and is poised to overtake HP in the coming months for the No. 2 spot.

Following its smartphone business, Samsung has been among the most successful in getting carrier support for its tablets. But its also caught the eye of Apple. Samsung's Galaxy Tab is part of a massive legal battle between the two technology titans. Samsung recently redesigned the Galaxy Tab for the German market in an attempt to get around an injunction won by Apple.

Asus and its Transformer tablet fell behind Samsung, followed by Motorola Mobility and then Acer. Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha has spoken about the early difficulties of selling its Xoom tablet and has been quiet since the Xoom debuted earlier this year as the first Honeycomb-powered Android device.