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iPad still top tablet but keeps shedding market share

Sure, Apple dominated the global tablet market last quarter, but Samsung and Asus are surging. Microsoft's Surface RT? Buyer reaction was "muted at best," says IDC.

Apple's 4th-generation iPad.
Apple's 4th-generation iPad. Apple

The iPad remains the king of the tablet world, but Android rivals continue to carve off some of its market share.

Apple shipped a total of 22.9 million iPads worldwide last quarter thanks to demand for the iPad Mini and the availability of the 4th-gen iPad, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. That number was in line with IDC's forecast and showed a 48.1 percent jump in shipments over the same quarter in 2011.

But for the second consecutive quarter, Apple's share of the global tablet market fell. In the fourth quarter of 2012, it recorded a share of 43.6 percent, down from 46.4 percent in the preceding quarter and 51.7 percent a year ago.

In second place, Samsung shipped almost 8 million Android and Windows 8 tablets combined, a 263 percent leap from the year-ago quarter. Over the same time, the company's share of the tablet market rose to 15.1 percent from 7.3 percent.

How did other tablet makers fare?

No. 3 Amazon shipped more than 6 million Kindle tablets last quarter, a gain of 26.8 percent from a year ago. But its market share dropped to 11.5 percent from 15.9 percent.

In fourth place, Asus enjoyed a surge in both shipments and market share from a year ago, thanks to strong demand for the Nexus 7 tablet. And in the No. 5 spot, Barnes & Noble shipped almost a million Nook tablets, though its shipments and market share both fell over the past year.

Finally, Microsoft hit the tablet market with its Surface RT tablet in October. But the company failed to make it to the top five list after shipping just under 900,000 tablets.

The Surface RT tablet starts at a price of $499, while the upcoming Surface Pro will kick off at a cost of $799. IDC believes adoption of Windows 8 and RT tablets will be slow unless prices can come down.

"Reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best," IDC program manager Ryan Reith said in a statement. "We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices. In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then ASPs (average selling prices) on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes."

Overall, fourth-quarter tablet shipments hit 52.5 million, a 74.3 percent rise from the third quarter and up 75.3 percent from 2011's fourth quarter. Lower selling prices, a variety of new products, and cheery holiday spending all helped boost the tablet market to record levels, IDC noted.