Industry analyst firm IDC published actual Q4-2012 worldwide tablet shipment numbers (paid subscription required or free metered view) which should be of interest to B2B and B2C fulfillment teams. Supply Chain Matters readers might recall our late November commentary which contrasted the latest IHS teardown analysis of various Tablets to supply chain strategies addressing the desired business outcomes.

According to IDC, worldwide shipments of electronic tablets grew by 75 percent to a fourth quarter record, thanks to lower selling prices and new product offerings.  Tablets were also high on the holiday wish lists of global consumers. Nearly 53 million tablets were shipped, up from a near 30 million shipped in the previous quarter.  That is quite a hockey-stick uptick and kudos to the supply chain fulfillment teams that managed this surge in product demand.

This author does not subscribe to any notion that supply chains may be failing- quite the contrary.  Supply chains and fulfillment teams, for the most part, have successfully responded to unprecedented challenges related to economic uncertainty, supply disruption, volatile markets and more demanding customers.

Getting back to the IDC numbers, as Supply Chain Matters previously noted, shipments of Apple’s iPad tablets grew 48 percent from a year earlier, boosted by the introduction of the iPad Mini. This was accomplished in a mainly supply constrained period where demand stayed ahead of supply. However, IDC notes that Apple’s overall market share in the Tablets market actually slipped roughly three points, which brings home the severity of market competition.

Samsung’s shipments almost quadrupled on a year-over-year basis, shipping upwards of 8 million combined Android and Windows tablets in the quarter. We previously called for due recognition of Samsungs supply chain prowess and consistent fulfillment capabilities. IDC names this vendor as second in overall tablet sales.

One of the most anticipated questions for this blog prior to the holiday buying season was how would Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Microsoft tablets fare in the quarter? It turns out that Amazon shipped more than 6 million of its Kindle line of tablets.  IDC notes however that Amazon market share slipped over 4 points.  This author was candidly surprised to read of that number.  The Nook family from Barnes and Noble shipped close to a million units, also suffering a significant market share decline.  Rounding out the top five players was Asus and its Nexus 7 line which IDC notes as experiencing the highest year-over-increase of the top five players, but also slipping 2 points in market share.

IDC reports that Microsoft’s Surface tablet shipped just shy of 900, 000 units. In our view, the Surface suffered from a late introduction to the market, a tepid response to the Windows 8 operating system and limited channel distribution leverage.  Microsoft purposely limited production and distribution because of the sensitivity to its existing hardware partners who did not take well to the company’s direct market entry. Considering that Microsoft’s strategic purpose was perhaps to make a credible market presence, more work may be required.

I don’t know about you, but reviewing these market results leads to this author’s conclusion that the competitive stakes in the Tablet and the impacted PC markets have dramatically accelerated, and synchronized planning, response management and fulfillment are mandatory just to stay in the game.

Congratulations to all teams in their accomplishments in this dynamic market.

Bob Ferrari