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Samsung Takes Big Bite of Apple's Tablet Share

 An uncharacteristically un-Apple-like three months paired with surging Samsung shipments saw Apple's slice of the overall tablet market share plummet from 65.5 percent in the second quarter to "just" 50.4 percent in the third quarter, according to the IDC research group.

All the other tablet manufacturers combined to ship a total of 13.7 million slates. That cumulative sum may not quite match the iPad's sales figures, but it represents a huge leap for the Android horde, with three of Apple's biggest competitors enjoying triple-digit growth. Apple still ships the vast majority of all tablets sold, however. Even in this down quarter, shipments were up 26.1 percent over last year's figures, to 14 million. 

Samsung gained the most ground in the overall tablet war, with slate shipments increasing from 1.2 million units in the third quarter of last year to 5.1 units in the same quarter this year -- a stunning 325 percent growth rate. Asus and Lenovo slates saw similar booms, as you can see in the chart below. (Amazon's Kindle Fire didn't start shipping until the fourth quarter of 2011.)

Is this the beginning of the end for the iPad's incredible tablet dominance? Don't jump that gun just yet, IDC's Tom Mainelli says.

"We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini," the IDC research director wrote in the firm's press release. "Now that the new mini, and a fourth-generation full-sized iPad, are both shipping we expect Apple to have a very good quarter."

Early sales results for the new iPad offerings back up Mainelli's prediction. This morning, Apple announced that it sold more than 3 million iPads over the past three days now that the fourth-generation iPad and the iPad mini have hit the streets. Put another way, that's over half of Samsung's total tablet shipments for the entire third quarter, and more than all of Amazon's third-quarter Kindle Fire sales, in a single weekend. It will be interesting to see how -- and if -- Windows 8 tablets fit into the picture this holiday season.