NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Tablets are catching on in a big way. Worldwide tablet sales grew a whopping 68% last year, which comes out to a total of 195.4 million new tablets in the hands of end-users.
According to newly released research by Gartner, 62% of those tablets came loaded with Google's (GOOG) Android operating system.
Gartner reported that while Apple (AAPL) iOS-based tablet sales grew in the fourth quarter of 2013, overall sales for the entire year declined to 36% of the market. In 2012, Apple products commanded a nearly 53% share of the global marketplace.
Google shares were down nearly 1% in trading Monday to $1,204.05 while Apple was advancing 0.22% to $527.40.
Microsoft (MSFT) tablets -- including both Windows Pro and Windows RT models -- doubled their market share from 1% in 2012 to 2.1% in 2013 but still account for only a minute portion of the overall global market.
The big movers last year were the small screen, low-end tablet models, the market segment that Android dominates. The biggest-selling items came from well-known name brands such as Samsung, Asus, Amazon (AMZN) and Lenovo.
Apple continued to top all vendors with more than 70 million units sold, or a 36% overall market share. A solid fourth quarter helped Apple retain its lead over all comers.
But when you add all the Android tablets sold (Samsung, 19.1% market share; Asus, 5.6%; Amazon, 4.8%; Lenovo, 3.3%; and others), Google's operating system comes out on top overall. Samsung's 2013 market share represents a whopping 336% improvement over its 2012 Galaxy Tab numbers.
Gartner counted tablets as part of the wider "ultramobile" market, including hybrids and clamshells, of which worldwide sales reached 216 million units in 2013 (a 68% increase from 2012). The tablet remained the most popular ultramobile device accounting for 90% of the overall total and hybrids (tablets with keyboards) were the fastest growing ultramobile segment.
As for the future, Gartner research director Roberta Cozza said, "As the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditized, in 2014, it will be critical for vendors to focus on device experience, meaningful technology and ecosystem value to ensure brand loyalty and improved margins."
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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