iPad leads way as 'media tablet' business grows

Editor’s Note: This story is excerpted from Computerworld. For more Mac coverage, visit Computerworld’s Macintosh Knowledge Center.

If it wasn’t already obvious, Apple’s iPad has led the way to explosive growth in the so-called “media tablet” business. The device almost exclusively led the way to a strong 2010 third quarter that grew by 45 percent compared to the second quarter, IDC said Tuesday with the release of its first report on the new tablet computer market.

About 87.4 percent, or 4.2 million, of the 4.8 million media tablets shipped in the third quarter were iPads, IDC said. IDC said that 3.3 million media tablets of all kinds shipped In the second quarter of 2010.

IDC estimated that nearly 17 million media-focused tablets shipped in all of 2010, and predicts that 44.6 million will ship in 2011 and 70.8 million in 2012.

Much of the enormous growth in 2011 is expected to come from a number of media tablets based on Google’s Android as well as other operating systems that will add price and feature competition to the market, IDC said.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, more than 80 different tablet models were introduced, including the Motorola Xoom based on Android 3.0 and the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook based on the BlackBerry Tablet OS.

IDC distinguishes the “media tablet” category from single-purpose e-readers and traditional slate or tablet PCs, which often use mainly pen-input and have been used to generate content more than to consume it. According to the researcher, media tablets include devices like the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which runs Android.

IDC said that media tablets have color displays ranging from 5 inches to 14 inches in size, and run lightweight operations systems such as Apple iOS and Google Android. Media tablets are often based on x86 or ARM processors, while tablet PCs run full PC operating systems are are based on x86 processors, it added.

The separate e-readers market grew by 40 percent in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. Some 2.7 million e-readers were shipped in the third quarter, IDC said. About 75 percent of e-readers are sold in the U.S.

IDC estimates that 10.8 million e-readers shipped in all of 2010, and that the total will grow to 14.7 million in 2011 and 16.6 million in 2012. Added digital content from books and magazines and other periodicals, as well as color displays, will drive growth, said IDC.

Amazon’s Kindle device led the e-reader market in the third quarter with 1.1 million shipped. The Amazon device held a 41.5 percent market share globally.

Pandigital’s Novel e-reader came in second with 440,000 shipped globally for a 16 percent share in the third quarter. Barnes and Noble, selling only in the U.S., shipped 420,000 in the quarter, or about 15.4 percent of the total shipped. Sony and China-based Hanvon effectively tied with about 230,000 each, for about 8 percent of the market.

Barnes and Noble introduced the Nookcolor in the fourth quarter of 2010, which IDC said will help produce good results for the bookseller.

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