Apple sells a lot of iPads - their recent financial disclosing leave no doubt about it. But looming behind the Cupertino giant is the specter of Android, ready to take over the tablet world as it already has the smartphone one. While Apple shipped more than 15 million iPads worldwide in the last three months of 2011, Android tablet shipments rose to 10.5 million, giving the two platforms a 57.6% and 39.1% share of the tablet market, respectively. Compared the the same quarter in 2010, Apple's market share dropped my more than 10 points while Android's rose by almost exactly the same amount. The latest numbers are according to Strategy Analytics.
Total tablet sales nearly tripped across all platforms in 2011, meaning that both Android and iOS are selling an order of magnitude more devices than even a year before. Windows 7 and "Other" tablets (presumably including the Blackberry Playbook and remaining stock of the HP TouchPad) made up less than 1% of combined sales. Even as the tablet market grows by leaps and bounds, Android is stealing sales from the iPad at an alarming rate - not at all unlike Android's rise on the smartphone side of things from 2009-2010.
Of course most of Android's sales are coming from small, inexpensive tablets in the $200 range, comparing favorably to Apple's cheapest iPad at $500. The Kindle Fire and Nook Color/Nook Tablet are the reigning kings of thrify Android tablets in the US, with options from smaller Chinese manufacturers making up a big chunk worldwide. Almost all of these tablets run Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Now that the more tablet-friendly Ice Cream Sandwich is available as an open source OS, we're seeing more and more low-cost tablets launch with an interface to take advantage of the larger screen size. Forthcoming models like the Asus MeMO 370T (above), which packs a 720p display, quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and Ice Cream Sandwich into a 7-inch body and a $250 retail price, give hope that 2012 can see Android's potential combine both low cost and high functionality across all price points.