Research firm Strategy Analytics discovers that shipments of Android-driven tablets are finally beginning to make a meaningful impact on the overall tablet market. Yes, Android slates are making their presence known, even though iPad is still king of the hill. According to the research firm’s survey, June quarter tablet shipments topped 15.1 million units, a material increase over the 3.5 million units from the year-ago period. Apple seized the #1 slot with 9.25 million iPads the company reported for the June quarter, representing a 61.3 percent share of the tablet market overall.

At the same time, Android tablets have gone from 2.9 percent market share in June 2010 to 30.1 percent in June 2011, a surprising 27.2 percentage points increase based on sales of 4.55 million units. In the year-ago quarter Apple enjoyed a 94 percent share, so iPad’s 33 percentage points drop is substantial no matter how you look at it. GSM Arena observes that “in terms of market share, the iOS lead in the past quarter is nearly three times smaller than it was in the same period of last year”.

It’s a big surprise that Android slates are now accounting for a third of the market and a far cry from just a year ago, when Google’s tablet-tailored Android Honeycomb software wasn’t ready for prime time. As a result, non-Apple vendors were incapacitated in their ability to mount competitive challenge to iPad’s dominance. As more players enter the game with a plethora of devices in varied form factors, sizes and price points, iPad could surrender more market share and fall below the 50 percent mark. It is interesting that Strategy Analytics’ survey shows sales of Windows-powered tablets (4.6 percent) outselling Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet (3.3 percent). RIM, just like Nokia, is facing public perception issues of its own as once the leading smartphone platform becomes an also-ran in both smartphone and tablet worlds due to consumers flocking to Android and Apple devices. The BlackBerry maker is also facing a brain drain, with PlayBook product manager leaving for Samsung, a third high-profile departure at RIM in a month’s time.

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