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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.

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Digital Trends Best of 2011 Awards: Tablets and E-Readers
digital trends best of 2011 awards tablets and ereaders fp

The iPad may have launched in 2010, but 2011 was a big year for tablets. Almost every major smartphone and PC manufacturer has joined the tablet party Apple started, beginning with the Motorola Xoom way back in February. To combat Apple on new territory, most companies turned to Google and its fledgling tablet OS, Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). Results were mixed, with some great and innovative devices coming out, padded by more iPad clones than you can shake a stick at. Until late 2011, no manufacturer seemed to be capable of beating Apple's $500 price by a significant enough margin to make much headway. If you're going to choose an iPad knockoff, it better be a lot cheaper. That's where Amazon came in. Despite most people suspecting the death of the e-reader in the face of the iPad, Kindle sales continued to surge, prompting Amazon to launch its own tablet, the Kindle Fire for a new low price of $200.
Some of this year's biggest losers were tablets as well. RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and HP's TouchPad tablet both attempted to enter the market but were greeted with little interest from buyers. HP didn't take the rejection well, momentarily announcing a complete shut down of WebOS and a potential sell-off of its entire PC division (its CEO was fired and this decision was reversed). Both companies didn't see any traction with their tablets until they were discounted to rock-bottom prices of $100-$200. But that's enough about them. Let's get on to this year's big winners. 
Make sure to check the rest of our Best of 2011 Awards to see all of this year's winners.

Apple iPad 2, $500 and up
The iPad 2 is the standard for all things tablet. Microsoft may have invented the tablet PC years ago, but Apple reinvented it as a relevant compliment to a PC and smartphone. The iPad 2 is still arguably the best tablet on the market, with a superthin aluminum frame, 9.7-inch screen with a paper-like aspect ratio of 4:3. And because Apple required all developers to make custom apps for the iPad, the market is full of apps that are custom built for Apple's tablet. Android users currently aren't so lucky. The iPad also still has that responsiveness and ease of use that Android Honeycomb doesn't quite have. We've seen and heard about many older Americans who generally avoid PCs being delighted with the iPad and using it for all sorts of things. If you want a solid buy that you know you'll enjoy, the iPad 2 is the best bet.
Read our full Apple iPad 2 Review.

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Archos unveils 70b, the first sub-$200 Android 3.2 Honeycomb tablet

Watch out, Kindle Fire, there's a new cheap tablet in town. Announced yesterday, the Archos 70b Internet Tablet (pdf) runs on Android 3.2 (Honeycomb), and is advertised as the first tablet to sport Honeycomb that costs under $200. Of course, the suggested starting retail price is $199, for the 8GB model.Despite its light price tag, the 70b actually has some solid specs, including a 1.2GHz CPU, a 7-inch touchscreen with a 1024x600 resolution and 512MB of RAM. The Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet (which cost $199 and $249, respectively) both have dual-core 1GHz processors and the same screen resolution as the 70b. The Kindle Fire also has 512MB of RAM, while the Nook Tablet has 1GB of RAM. Both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet run on heavily modified versions of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), which was originally designed for smartphones; Honeycomb was made for tablets, though some still find the OS lacking in various ways. Other 70b features include an SD card slot, HDMI output, and 3D gaming capabilities. But unlike its competitors, the 70b lacks some popular features, like a microphone and webcam for video chats. While this all sounds great, we don't expect the 70b to do anywhere near as well as the Kindle Fire, which is apparently selling at an incredible rate. This is primarily because Archos does not have the advantage of the gargantuan marketing machine that Amazon has, nor the benefit of ubiquitous brand recognition. It's also clear that there is a race for the bottom in the tablet market, so there will likely be a number of other tablets in this category launching at CES, which is only a few weeks away. In other words, the Archos 70b is a good deal now, but that edge won't last long.Still, if you're in the market for a budget tablet, the 70b seems as good a choice as any — just realize that at this price point, you're bound to make some sacrifices, in one area or another. The 70b will be available starting in January.

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Survey: iPad set to be pushed aside by Kindle Fire this holiday season

It looks like Apple’s iPad finally has some serious competition on its hands. According to the results of a recent survey by consumer electronics shopping and review site Retrevo, shoppers in the US interested in buying an iPad this holiday season are outnumbered by more than three times by those interested in Amazon’s Kindle Fire - and it’s not even on the shelves yet.
Of those considering purchasing a tablet, 44 percent said they would take a look at Amazon’s Kindle Fire while only 12 percent said they would definitely get an iPad.
At $199, Amazon’s 7-inch 8GB tablet, which goes on sale next week, costs $300 less than Apple’s cheapest iPad, the 16GB Wi-Fi only model.
Encouraged by the number of pre-orders it has received since the Kindle Fire was unveiled in September, the e-commerce giant has reportedly ramped up production to meet demand. The Fire will start shipping next week.
Retrovo’s study, which involved more than 1,000 consumers, showed that tablets could be the hot item this holiday season, with 69 percent of respondents saying they're looking to buy one, or want to at least find out more about them.
Retrovo said that “the iPad 2 is starting to show its age and the new Kindle Fire is about to make the scene with a very attractive $199 price point.”
It also commented on Amazon’s timing regarding the release of the Fire. “With the iPad 2 nearly a year old and the iPad 3 rumored to not be available until next year (missing the holiday season), Amazon may have timed the launch of their tablet just right.”
The unveiling of Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet on Monday, however, undermines the survey's results somewhat. The research was carried out before the Nook Tablet was announced, and with a spec sheet similar to that of the Fire, it'll no doubt be of interest to consumers too. Barnes & Noble’s new tablet, which hits the shelves later next week, also sports a 7-inch screen and runs a version of the Android operating system, although it has double the internal memory and costs $50 more than the Fire.
Of course, with Apple having sold somewhere in the region of 35 million iPads since its launch in 2010, Amazon has some catching up to do, but if the results of Retrovo’s survey prove accurate, this holiday season may see a noticeable shift in the tablet market for the first time.

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