Apple’s tablet share slides, still beats closest competitor by 10M units

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Apple’s (s aapl) share of the global tablet market slid in the quarter ending Sept. 30, from 63.3 to 61.5 percent, according to a new report from research firm IDC. Apple did, however, ship 11.1 million tablets during the quarter, more than 10 million more than its next-closest competitor Samsung, which shipped around 1 million units of all Galaxy tablet models.

The top five tablet makers for the quarter also included HP (s hpq) in third place with 903,000 devices sold, Barnes & Noble (s bks) in fourth with 805,000 Nook Colors heading out to consumers, and Asus bringing up the rear with around a 4 percent share, or about 724,000 units.

In other words, Apple easily led the pack, and no one really posed a serious threat to its dominance. Tablet sales overall were at 18.1 million devices shipped worldwide, which was below IDC’s predicted 19.2 million units, however.

Regardless of the shortfall during the quarter, IDC actually increased its estimates for tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011. Instead of its initial prediction of 62.5 million units for the year, IDC is now expecting year-end sales to hit 63.3 million. That’s thanks in part to inexpensive Android (s GOOG) offerings from Amazon (s AMZN) and Barnes & Noble, which should also help Android’s share of the tablet market rise from 32.4 to 40.3 percent overall, much of which will come as a result of HP’s (s hpq) withdrawal from the tablet game.

Despite any gains for the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, IDC still sees Apple as the surefire winner for the fourth quarter of 2011. Says Tom Mainelli, the research director for mobile connected devices at IDC:

I fully expect Apple to have its best-ever quarter in 4Q11, and in 2012 I think we’ll see Apple’s product begin to gain more traction outside of the consumer market, specifically with enterprise and education markets.

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Shipped or sold? Big difference. Apple numbers are almost always sold, whereas others stress “shipped” as in shipped to stores.

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