Kindle Fire shipments can't hold candle to iPad, says iSuppli

Amazon Kindle Fire is strong for an Android tablet, but Apple iPad still dominates

The Kindle Fire has been the most successful Android tablet to date but that doesn't mean its flame is burning anywhere near as bright as the iPad's.

According to the latest data from market intelligence firm iSuppli, Apple shipped 15.4 million iPads in the fourth quarter of 2011, good for 57% of the overall tablet market. Amazon's low-cost Kindle Fire tablet accounted for 14% of all tablet shipments in the fourth quarter with 3.9 million units shipped. Samsung, Barnes & Noble and Asus rounded out the top five tablet vendors for the quarter, with each accounting for less than 10% of total tablet shipments for the period.

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Rhoda Alexander, the senior manager for tablet and monitor research for iSuppli information and analysis provider IHS, said that the Kindle Fire's strong numbers aren't necessarily predictive of its future success since the tablet generated a lot of media attention in its first quarter of availability and still has a long way to go to catch the iPad in terms of overall market share.

"Kindle Fire shipments in the fourth quarter came right in line with the IHS early December forecast of 3.9 million units, representing a respectable start for the Fire," she said. "However, the long-term viability of the product will hinge on the success of Amazon's business gamble, which depends on tablet sales driving substantial new online merchandise sales at Amazon.com in order to attain profitability."

Even so, the success of low-cost tablets such as the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook helped knock down Apple's total market share quarter over quarter, as the iPad accounted for 64% of tablet shipments in the third quarter of 2011. For all of 2011, Apple shipped 40.5 million iPads, or around 62% of all tablets shipped on the year. Rumors are heating up that Apple will announce a new tablet, perhaps the iPad 3, next month. 

The new data from iSuppli matches up with data released by Strategy Analytics last month showing that the iPad accounted for 57.6% of all tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011 while all Android tablets combined accounted for 39% of tablet shipments.

Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet was hyped as the first tablet to give the iPad a run for its money when it was released last year because its lower $200 price tag, its integration with Amazon's cloud services and its unique Android interface designed by Amazon. Amazon created a Web browser called Amazon Silk that utilizes Amazon's cloud capabilities to speed up page load times by tracking your Web browsing patterns and preloading pages you typically visit through Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). In other words, Amazon's cloud requests your frequently-visited pages before you even ask for them so they're ready to go for you.

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