Apple's iPad led an exploding tablet market in the third quarter, research firm IDC has revealed.
During the three-month period ended September 30, 18.1 million tablets were shipped worldwide, representing a 23.9 percent gain over the second quarter, and a whopping 264.5 percent increase over the third quarter of 2010. However, IDC had expected 19.2 million tablets would hit store shelves last quarter, indicating the market was a little more sluggish than it had anticipated.
Regardless, several companies did well during the third quarter, and Apple was chief among them. The iPad maker shipped 11.1 million tablet units, according to IDC, helping it nab 61.5 percent of the market. Samsung's tablet line secured 5.6 percent market share to grab the second spot.
Surprisingly, HP's TouchPad was the third-most-popular tablet during the period, shipping 903,000 units and securing 5 percent market share. Those strong sales came after HP announced that it was discontinuing the tablet and slashing its price to $99 to clear inventory. Soon after, the tablet was sold out, as customers rushed to get their hands on the cheap iPad alternative.
HP offered a second shipment of TouchPads earlier this month. Like the first run, those devices quickly sold out.
The tablet makers' strong third quarter followed a similarly impressive second quarter. During that period, IDC reported earlier this year, 13.6 million tablets hit store shelves, jumping 303.8 percent compared to the same period last year. However, Apple's market share has declined a bit over the last several months. At the end of the second quarter, the company's market ownership stood at 68.3 percent.
That downward trend is only expected to continue. Due to the success of Amazon's Kindle Fire, which launched last month, IDC believes Android will secure 40.3 percent of the tablet market in the fourth quarter. Apple's iPad, on the other hand, will see its market share drop to 59 percent, giving iOS and Android 99.3 percent of the tablet space between them.
"Amazon and Barnes & Noble are shaking up the media tablet market, and their success helps prove that there is an appetite for media tablets beyond Apple's iPad," Tom Mainelli IDC research director for Mobile Connected Devices said in a statement. "That said, I fully expect Apple to have its best-ever quarter in 4Q11, and in 2012 I think we'll see Apple's product begin to gain more traction outside of the consumer market, specifically with enterprise and education markets."
When it's all said and done, IDC thinks 2011 will have been a banner year for tablets, with a total of 63.3 million slates hitting store shelves around the world.