Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system captured 21.6 percent of the global market for tablets in the fourth quarter of last year, according to figures from Strategy Analytics--a dramatic jump from Android's 2.3 percent market share in the third quarter. The growth of Android tablet shipments from the third quarter to the fourth--from around 100,000 in the third quarter to 2.1 million in the fourth--is particularly noteworthy considering OEMs have not yet officialy released tablets running Android 3.0, dubbed Honeycomb, which is specifically designed for tablet form factors.
"Android tablet volumes experienced 2,000 percent sequential growth and its global market share soared to a record 22 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010," said Neil Mawston, a director at Strategy Analytics. "The Samsung GalaxyTab was the main driver of Android's success, as the model was launched in dozens of countries and promoted heavily by Samsung. Tablet makers like Android because of its perceived low cost and an accompanying range of compelling media services such as YouTube and Google Maps."
Not surprisingly, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) captured the lion's share of the tablet market in the fourth quarter with 75.3 percent share. However, the dramatic rise of Android in just a few months likely reflects both worldwide demand for tablets as well as the leverage the platform affords vendors keen on challenging Apple's lead in the sector.
Strategy Analytics said the U.S. market is "by far" the largest for tablets, and that it's an area "no major vendor can afford to ignore."
The firm also said it expects Android's share of the global tablet market to grow during the first half of 2011--although it did not provide specific growth figures. Along with Samsung, a number of vendors including Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), LG and Acer plan Android-powered tablets. Indeed, LG said it held off on launching a tablet device until Google released Android 3.0.
But Android won't be the only game in town. Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is soon to begin selling the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, and Hewlett-Packard is widely expected to unveil next month a webOS tablet.
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