Market analysis firm Strategy Analytics has released its analysis of the worldwide tablet market during the fourth quarter of 2011, and finds that while the Apple iPad continues to dominate with a 58 percent share, Android tablets are catching up, accounting for 39 percent of the market. And even Windows tablets put in an appearance, accounting for roughly one percent of the global market. The figures represent a solid year-on-year improvement for Android, which Strategy Analytics pegged at holding 29 percent of the tablet market a year ago.
“Dozens of Android models distributed across multiple countries by numerous brands such as Amazon, Samsung, Asus, and others have been driving volumes,” said Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston, in a statement. “Android is so far proving relatively popular with tablet manufacturers despite nagging concerns about fragmentation of Android’s operating system, user interface, and app store ecosystem.”
Strategy Analytics says some 10.5 million Android tablets were shipped during the fourth quarter of 2011, up from just 3.1 million for the same quarter a year ago. However, the numbers require a little bit of explanation: Strategy Analytics says its figures refer to “sell-in,” which is when manufacturers sell their devices to retailers and other outlets, who in turn sell them to the public. However, the figures Strategy Analytics is using for the Apple iPad—15.43 million units during the fourth quarter—refer to actual sales to consumers, not just units shipped to be sold. As company’s like RIM know all too well, there can be a tremendous difference between the number of products a company ships to retailers and the number that actually wind up in consumers’ hands. For that matter, it’s absolutely certain Apple shipped more than 15.43 million units to its own stores and retailers last quarter, since the iPad 2 was readily available in good supply to anyone who wanted it.
Strategy Analytics says its figures also omit e-readers, something that’s sure to irk Barnes & Noble with its range of Android-powered devices. Previous reports on Android tablets have included the Nook Color as an “Android tablet.”
Most industry watchers expect Android tablets to begin chipping away at Apple’s lead in the tablet market—particularly with the success of the Amazon Kindle Fire and other low-cost devices. However, the diversity of devices and manufacturers in the Android ecosystem may make it difficult to determine exactly how well Android tablets might be doing against the iPad: Apple reports actual sales, but essentially no other manufacturers are willing to do the same.