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NPD: Apple Still Leads Tablet Shipments, But The Fight For Second Place Rages On

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Another day, another take on Amazon and Apple duking it out in the tablet market. The data comes from NPD’s DisplaySearch wing, and the results don’t come as much of a shock. By their count, Apple is still sitting at the top of the heap, accounting for 59.1 percent of the tablets shipped in Q4 2011 while Amazon is sitting pretty in second place with 16.7 percent of tablet shipments under their belt.

At first glance, the results seem very similar to those announced by iSuppli this time last week — the only major shift is that iSuppli has book retailer Barnes & Noble slightly ahead of Asus.

NPD DisplaySearch brings up an interesting point though — while Apple’s shipments grew in all of their markets, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and BN’s Nook Tablet are currently only available in the United States. Though they occupied third and fourth place respectively in NPD’s rankings, both Samsung and Asus were bolstered by solid results from the EMEA markets (that’s Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to you and me).

Amazon and BN have the potential to pick up even more steam in the tablet space — and potentially throw their competitors into a tizzy — if they can cultivate an international presence. Amazon may have a tougher time than their rivals, as the inclusion of their Silk web browser may run afoul of European data protection laws.

It seemed for a long time that if a true iPad competitor would appear, a big name like Samsung or Asus would have been behind it. With Amazon firmly ensconced in second place though, they’re quickly becoming an obstacle that these other manufacturers have to surmount before they can claim the silver medal.

Take Barnes & Noble for instance – though they’re not out to own the tablet market like Apple has, they’ve recently taken steps to compete with Amazon on their own price-conscious turf. This by itself may not have Amazon quaking in their boots, but the fact that companies like Samsung and Asus are hard on work on more robust, less expensive tablets certainly should.

With the iPad 3 expected to launch sooner rather than later, Apple will likely hang onto its crown for a long time to come. Still, there’s plenty of room for the rest of the tablet pack to fight for a strong second place finish, and if recent announcements are any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a fight.