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Apple’s share of worldwide tablet shipments fell to 43.6 percent from 51.7 percent a year ago as competition in the tablet market heats up, according to research firm IDC’s preliminary estimates of worldwide tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012.  Samsung, on the other hand, saw its market share more than double to 15.1 percent from 7.3 percent a year ago.

Overall, worldwide tablet shipments outpaced predictions reaching a record total of 52.5 million units worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2012, IDC said.  At the same time, PC shipments declined during the quarter for the first time in more than five years, IDC said.

Apple’s market share declined for a second quarter in a row, down to 43.6 percent from 46.4 percent last quarter, even as the iPad mini drove a nearly 50% growth in units for the company.  Apple is seeing increased competition from Samsung, which shipped nearly 8 million combined Android and Windows 8 tablets during the quarter, IDC said.idc

Meanwhile, number four Asus saw its share jump to 5.8 percent from 2 percent a year ago thanks to strong shipments of its Google-branded Nexus 7 tablet.  Microsoft 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, IDC said.

“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. In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then ASPs on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes.”

Apple is trying to stave off more competition from Microsoft.  In fact,  Apple will be releasing a 128-GB iPad on February 5 ahead of the release of Microsoft’s Surface Pro, which will go on sale in 64 GB and 128 GB varieties on February 9.

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