The tablet market has grown by more than 75 percent in the last year, and while Apple still tops the list, Samsung and Asus have gained ground on the iPad-maker.

Tablet Shipments up 75 percent
Microsoft's Surface shipped 900,000 units in the final three months of 2102, failing to make a significant impact on the tablet market. (Credit: Reuters)

The growth in the tablet market is reflected in the continued decline in the PC market, with consumers choosing to replace their laptops with tablets rather than purchasing both. Lower average selling prices, a much wider range of form factors and sizes; as well as increased Christmas spending pushed shipments in the final three months of 2012 to 52.5 million - up from 29.9 million the previous year.

Preliminary tablets sales figures from the International Data Corporation (IDC) show that Apple continues to be the dominant force in tablets, with its iPad and iPad mini selling 22.9 million units during the three month period, giving it a 43 percent market share. However, while shipments were up (from 15.1 million) it's market share has dropped from 48.1 percent.

This is as a result of even bigger growth by Samsung and Asus during the quarter. Samsung shipped 7.9m tablets, up from 2.2 million in the previous year, growth of 263 percent, while Asus, who manufactures the popular Nexus 7 tablet, saw growth of 402 percent, shipping 3.1 million Android and Windows 8 tablets during the quarter.

Amazon, which launched its Kindle Fire range of tablets globally in the final quarter of 2012, saw modest growth in comparison to Samsung and Asus, shipping 6 million tablets, up from 4.7 million the previous year.

While Apple is still far-and-away the market leader, Samsung, Amazon and Asus are now beginning to make a serious impact on its market share, which will be worrying for the Cupertino-based company.

US book seller, Barnes and Noble was the only manufactuer in the top five to see a drop in its shipments, from 1.4 million of it Nook tablets during the fourth quarter of 2011, to just one million in the same period in 2012.

IDC Q4 2012 Tablet Shipments

Windows 8

The big news in the final three months of 2012 was the introduction of Windows 8 and its tablet-optimised version, known as Windows RT. This was seen as a major challenge to both Apple's iPad and the hundreds of Android-based tablets on the market. However, according to Ryan Reith, program manager, Mobile Device Trackers at IDC "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."

Speaking of the Surface tablet, Microsoft's first foray into the "Post PC" tablet market shipped 900,000 units according to IDC, though how many of these have been sold remains to be seen, as Microsoft refuses to release sales figures.

"We expected a very strong fourth quarter, and the market didn't disappoint," said the IDC's tablet research director Tom Mainelli. "The record-breaking quarter stands in stark contrast to the PC market, which saw shipments decline during the quarter for the first time in more than five years."

Earlier this month IDC reported that worldwide PC sales fell by 6.4 percent from the year before which was even worse than the 4.4 percent decline the firm had previously predicted.

It's clear that it is now the time of the tablet, however there is some light at the end of the tunnel for PC manufacturers as Chinese company proved that you can buck this trend as it reported PC shipments grew by almost eight percent in the final three months of 2012.