(By Balachander) International Data Corp. (IDC) said global tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012 surged nearly 76 percent and outpaced expectations, spurred by new product launches, lower average selling prices (ASPs) and increased holiday spending.
Worldwide tablet shipments totaled 52.5 million units in the final three months of last year, up from 29.9 million units in the year-ago period and 30.1 million units in the third quarter, IDC said.
"We expected a very strong fourth quarter, and the market didn't disappoint," said Tom Mainelli, research director, Tablets, at IDC. "New product launches from the category's top vendors, as well as new entrant Microsoft, led to a surge in consumer interest and very robust shipments totals during the holiday season."
This is in stark contrast to the PC market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years, IDC noted.
Apple's (AAPL) iPad shipments jumped 48 percent to 22.9 million units on a year-over-year basis, boosted by a strong iPad mini launch, plus availability of the fourth generation full-sized iPad.
Samsung shipped roughly 8 million combined Android and Windows 8 tablets during the fourth quarter, with shipments surging 263 percent year-on-year growth.
Acocrding to IDC, Apple's tablet market share was 43.6 percent and Samsung grabbed 15 percent of the market.
Amazon (AMZN) shipments jumped nearly 27 percent to more than 6 million tablets, while Barnes & Noble (BKS) shipped close to a million units.
IDC said Microsoft (MSFT) entered the market during the quarter with its Surface with Windows RT tablet, but failed to reach the top five after shipping just shy of 900,000 units into the channel.
"There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul. However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best," said Ryan Reith, program manager, Mobile Device Trackers at IDC.
"We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices," added Reith.