Tablet sales hit record in fourth quarter last year

Gadget-obsessed consumers drove worldwide tablet sales to record rates in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to preliminary data released Thursday by market research firm IDC.

A total of 52.5 million tablets were shipped in the quarter, compared with 29.9 million during the same period a year ago. IDC attributed that 75.3 percent increase to a reduction in the average tablet price, numerous product offerings and a boost from holiday spending.

“The record-breaking quarter stands in stark contrast to the PC market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years,” said IDC research director Tom Mainelli in a news release announcing the data.

As usual, Apple’s iPad led the market with 22.9 million sold in the quarter. That accounted for nearly 44 percent of all tablet sales. But its market share was down from nearly 52 percent during the same period a year ago.

Meanwhile, second-place tablet maker Samsung grabbed just over 15 percent of the market by selling 7.9 million of the devices. That’s nearly double the 7.3 percent share it had when it sold 2.2 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2011.

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Steve Johnson covers the microchip industry, cyber security and the big-technology sector that includes Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Cisco Systems.