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IDC says 3Q tablet shipments miss mark, but 4Q should be huge

Barnes & Noble Nook Color

Market research firm IDC has released new figures for the sales of “media tablets” worldwide during the third quarter of 2011: where IDC had forecast shipments of 19.2 million units, only 18.1 million got out the door, meaning IDC’s forecast was off by almost six percent. Nonetheless, the tablet market showed strong year-on-year growth, up more than 264 percent from the same quarter last year. Of course, the winner for the third quarter by far was Apple—IDC says Apple shipped 11.1 million units, accounting for 61.5 percent of the worldwide “media tablet” market. But the firm is forecasting the holiday-laden fourth quarter will see strong demand for media tablets.

“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,” said IDC research director Tom Mainelli, 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.”

IDC has redefined its definition of “media tablet” to include LCD-based products like the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, which creates a rather broad category that perhaps under-represents Apple’s dominance of the tablet market. These devices don’t offer the same capabilities as more-flexible tablets like the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, although an argument can be made they fill similar functional roles in many consumers’ lives.

IDC forecasts a rosy future for Android, saying the introduction of the Kindle Fire and other devices will lead to “dramatic gains” in tablet marketshare. IDC is calling for Android-based media tablets to account for more than 40 percent of worldwide tablet shipments during the fourth quarter.

According to IDC, after Apple, Samsung captured the number two spot in the worldwide tablet market with a 5.6 percent share, and HP got number three by blowing out its discontinued TouchPad tablets for a 5 percent share. IDC says Barnes & Noble shipped some 805,000 Nook Colors during the quarter, which is enough to give it the number four slot and a 4.5 percent share of the “media tablet” market.