Tablets accounted for over a third of worldwide PC shipments during 2012's fourth quarter, according to research firm, Canalys.
PC shipments increased by 12 percent year-over-year to 134 million units with 46.2 million units qualifying as tablets, representing a 75 percent year-over-year increase. Apple shipped 27 million iPad units, giving it a 20 percent share of the market for the first time. Full year tablet shipments totaled 114.6 million units.
The iPad Mini accounted for more than half of the company's total iPad shipments. However, due to supply issues with other iPad variants, Apple’s tablet share dropped below 49 percent. Consequently, for the first time, the firm didn't control over half the tablet market.
"Apple timed the launch of the iPad Mini well," said Canalys research analyst, Pin-Chen Tang. "Its success proves there is a clear demand for pads with smaller screens at a more affordable price. Without the launch, Apple would surely have lost more ground to its competitors."
Samsung became a top five vendor for the first time in overall PC sales, with HP, Apple and Lenovo topping the list. Its Galaxy tablet shipped 7.6 million units, a year-over-year increase of 226 percent, while its notebook computers shipped 4.1 million units, which gave it a 9 percent share of the PC market.
Amazon's expanded Kindle Fire lineup and additional markets increased its worldwide shipments by 18 percent to 4.6 million units. Google’s Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets "performed relatively well" and shipped a combined 2.6 million units during the fourth quarter.
"The sub-$200 price brands now feature products from established players that do not rely on low-quality components," said Canalys analyst, Tom Evans. "Those who control ecosystems, such as Amazon and Google, can obtain revenue from content sales, but pure hardware OEMs must accept decreasing margins or exit."
Canalys said Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet shipped 720,000 units in Q4. "The outlook for Windows RT appears bleak. Hardware OEMs are ignoring it due, in part, to a pricing strategy that does not align with the economics of the pad market."
According to Canalys, Microsoft will "rethink its pricing strategy for RT in the coming weeks." The research firm suggested that Microsoft should decrease the price of the operating system by 60 percent to get "OEMs back onside." In order to increase Windows RT sales, it said Microsoft has to increase manufacturer support, as well as delivering an effective strategy to educate consumers on the platform and attract new developers.
Tablet display shipments have already surpassed the shipments of notebooks, while global shipments during 2013 are expected to approach the quarter of a billion mark. Michael Dell, who recently spearheaded a $24.4 billion deal to make the company he founded go public, lately admitted that the rapid rise of tablets has surprised him.