Android Tablets Gain On Apple's iPad

Tablet computer shipments more than doubled in the fourth quarter. But while holiday sales were strong for the product, the news wasn't quite so jolly for Apple. According to researcher Strategy Analytics, Apple's iPad went from 96 percent of market share to 75 percent. Tablets based on Google's Android operating system gained ground.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Tablet computers took off last year, and now we have some numbers to show just how much. In the last few months of 2010, nearly 10 million tablets were shipped, double the previous quarter.

NPR's Shereen Meraji has more.

SHEREEN MERAJI: Apple CEO Steve Jobs posed this question before he unveiled the iPad, a year ago...

Mr. STEVE JOBS (CEO, Apple): Is there room for a third category of device in the middle, something that is between a laptop and a smartphone?

MERAJI: The answer clearly is yes. And not just ones made by Apple. This week, the research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that Apple's tablet dropped to about three quarters of the market, with Android making up the difference. Until now, the iPad was almost the entire market share.

Jacqui Cheng, is a senior editor with the tech website Ars Technica.

Ms. JACQUI CHENG (Senior Editor, Ars Technica): Apple was able to enjoy first mover advantage for such a long time, but now that there are other options on the market, people are kind of exploring what's out there and buying different things.

MERAJI: Things like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. That was the main driver for Android sales. But Cheng says the Android operating system isn't user friendly enough to compete with the iPad yet. Google is set to unveil a new tablet-compatible operating system tomorrow nicknamed Honeycomb.

The earlier Android operating system was developed for those tiny smartphone screens, whereas Honeycomb is made to work with tablet devices with larger screens. Google has proved that by giving people their choice of smartphones -all running Android - that it can be number one in that market. With an easier to use operating system and more tablet devices coming out this year, Android is set to gain even more ground.

Shereen Meraji, NPR News.

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