Google’s Android boosted its share of tablet computers almost 10-fold in the fourth quarter, narrowing the lead of Apple Inc.’s iPad, market researcher Strategy Analytics said.

Android devices captured 22 percent of global tablet shipments in the three months to Dec. 31, up from 2.3 percent in the preceding quarter, the Boston-based researcher said in a statement today. The iPad accounted for 75 percent of shipments in the period, down from 96 percent, it said.

Apple’s iPad, which sold more than 14.8 million units worldwide since its introduction in April, faces increasing competition from new tablets made by Samsung Electronics Co., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Acer Inc., which are powered by Google’s free Android software. Tablet PCs with that operating system will further pare Apple’s lead in the first half of 2011, the researcher said.

“The Samsung Galaxy Tab was the main driver of Android success,” Neil Mawston, director at Strategy Analytics, wrote in the report. “Tablet makers like Android because of its perceived low cost and an accompanying range of compelling media services such as YouTube and Google Maps.”

Apple shipped 7.3 million tablets in the fourth quarter, a 74 percent gain from the previous three-month period, according to the report. Shipments of Android devices jumped to 2.1 million units, from about 100,000, it said.

Market research firm ISuppli, a unit of IHS Inc., forecasts 57 million tablets will be sold this year and 171 million in 2014.

Stay tuned!

Via: The Android Phone