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Apple iPad crushes rivals as tablet market reaches new high in Q4 2012

Tablet sales beat expectations during Q4 2012, with consumers worldwide snapping up a record 52.5 million devices. Apple's iPad (see image, top) led the pack, but rivals like Samsung and Amazon also had a healthy holiday season, according to stats from IDC.

The same could not be said for the PC market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years, IDC said.

Apple shipped 22.9 million iPads during the quarter for 43.6 per cent of the market. That's more than the 15.1 million it shipped during the same time period in 2011, but competition from rivals means its overall tablet share dropped from 51.7 per cent.

Samsung came in at number two with 7.9 tablets shipped for 15.1 per cent of the market - up from 7.3 per cent in 2011. Amazon rounded out the top three with 6 million Kindle tablets shipped; that's up from 4.7 million in 2011, but its tablet market share also dropped from 15.9 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, Asus - which makes the Google Nexus 7 - shipped 3.1 million tablets, while Barnes & Noble shipped 1 million Nooks. Microsoft failed to crack the top five, shipping just 900,000 Surface with Windows RT tablets.

"There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul. However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best," said IDC's Ryan Reith.

"We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices."

Microsoft's Surface Pro hits stores on 9 February.

Overall, the tablet market grew 75.3 per cent in the last year, and was up 74.3 per cent from the third quarter 2012 - thanks in part to lower prices, bigger selection, and increased holiday spending.

Earlier this month, IDC said PC shipments dropped 6.4 per cent in the fourth quarter from 2011 to 89.8 million.