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IDC: Apple's iPad took 83% share of tablets shipped in 2010

Contrasting Apple's recent claims that it controls more than 90 percent of the tablet market, research firm IDC revealed on Thursday that the iPad represented 73 percent of shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010, and 83 percent for the entire year.

IDC's "Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker" found that 10.1 million "media tablets" were shipped in the fourth quarter of calendar 2010. During the holiday frame, Apple sold 7.3 million iPads, representing its strongest quarter of sales in the device's short history.

IDC categorizes media tablets as devices with color displays larger than 5 inches and smaller than 14 inches, running lightweight operating systems like Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Shipments of media tablets in the U.S., Western Europe and Asia/Pacific are said to have accounted for 89 percent of the total market in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The firm found that the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the primary competitor to Apple's iPad in the holiday quarter, representing 17 percent of shipments in the fourth quarter.

Apple's share of tablet shipments dipped from 93 percent in the third quarter to 73 percent at the end of 2010 as competitors entered the market. But Apple still captured an 83 percent share of shipped tablets for the total calendar year. IDC expects the iPad to retain between 70 percent and 80 percent of the market in 2011.

"Strong holiday sales of media tablets were in line with IDC projections and strong consumer interest in the category while device vendors scrambled to offer products competitive with Apple's iPad and now iPad 2," said Loren Loverde, vice president, Consumer Device Trackers. "Media Tablets are on pace to reach shipments of roughly 50 million units in 2011."

IDC's figures contradict market share statistics stated by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs at last week's unveiling of the iPad 2. Jobs touted that the iPad has more than 90 percent market share while competitors are "flummoxed."

It's possible that some of the difference could be explained by hardware shipped versus what was actually sold. While Apple saw strong sales of more than 15 million iPads to end users in all of 2010, Samsung shipped about 2 million of the Galaxy Tab, though actual sales to end users remain unknown. One report also claimed that the Galaxy Tab has a 16 percent return rate with buyers.