Android tablets made inroads on the iPad’s market share, thanks largely to Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which runs a custom version of Android, according to research firm IDC.
Worldwide tablet shipments reached 28.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, up 155 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010. IDC is expecting that number to increase even more in 2012: to 106.1 million units.
Though Apple’s iPad shipments grew in the fourth quarter of 2011 — to 15.4 million versus 11.1 million in the third quarter — it nonetheless lost market share. In the fourth quarter, it held 54.7 percent of the worldwide market, down from 61.5 percent in the third quarter.
Amazon shipped 4.7 million Kindle Fires in 2011, enough to boost the company into second place behind Apple with 16.8 percent of the worldwide market.
The Kindle Fire boosted Android’s overall operating system market share to 44.6 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 32.3 percent in the third quarter.
IDC expects Android to overtake Apple in market share by 2015, although it expects Apple to remain the revenue market share leader through at least the end of 2016.
Other operating systems barely make a blip in IDC’s forecast, even in 2016. That hardly bodes well for Microsoft, which is expected to release its new Windows 8 operating system on tablets toward the end of this year.
Here’s IDC’s chart: