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IDC: 18 Million Tablets Shipped in 2010 on Huge Q4

The media tablet market exploded in the fourth quarter of 2010 (read: holiday sales of the Apple iPad), according to figures released today by market researchers at IDC.

For the last three months of the year, 10.1 million media tablets were shipped. Apple's share was 73 percent for the quarter. The other big contender was the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which garnered 17 percent of the market in the quarter, according to IDC.

The Q4 results more than doubled the 4.5 million units shipped in Q3, when Apple had 93 percent of the market. For the full year, IDC put tablet shipments at 18 million, with Apple's share of the market at 83 percent.

IDC categorizes media tablets as devices with color displays larger than 5 inches and smaller than 14 inches, running lightweight operating systems, and based on x86 or ARM processors. IDC also distinguishes media tablets from PC tablets, defined as running full PC operating systems and based on x86 processors.

"Media tablets are on pace to reach shipments of roughly 50 million units in 2011," said Loren Loverde, IDC vice president of Consumer Device Trackers, in a statement. Loverde's phrasing seems carefully constructed so as to not be construed as a forecast, which is wise in a market where no one knows what to expect. Not to beat up on IDC, but last May, the company was calling for 7.6 million tablet shipments in 2010 and 46 million in 2011.

IDC did include some of its expectations for the market shares of various models. Given the iPad 2 release, the Framingham, Mass.-based researcher is looking for Apple to maintain market share in the 70 percent to 80 percent range. With a raft of competitors coming to market, such as the Motorola Xoom, and pricing issues, IDC expects the Galaxy Tab to have trouble maintaining its Q4 position.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM