Global tablet sales dropped by 38.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 to 17.4 million units, from a total of 28.2 million units in Q4 2011, although Apple's iPad sales bucked the trend by remaining strong.
Apple shipped 11.8 million iPads in the first three months of the year, with sales spiking in March with the release of its HD iPad.
"Apple's move to position the iPad as an all-purpose tablet, instead of just a content consumption device, is resonating with consumers as well as educational and commercial buyers," said IDC research director Tom Mainelli.
"Its decision to keep a lower-priced iPad 2 in the market after it launched the new iPad in March seems to be paying off as well," he added.
Amazon's tablet sales in Q1 were particularly poor, with IDC's research showing a slip from 16.8 per cent share of the market in Q4 2011 to just four per cent now, behind Samsung, Lenovo and even Barnes & Noble (B&N) in second, third and fourth places respectively.
"It seems some of the mainstream Android vendors are finally beginning to grasp the fact that Amazon, B&N and Pandigital figured out early on: namely, to compete in the media tablet market with Apple, they must offer their products at notably lower price points," said Mainelli.
Apple could face much stiffer competition soon, with the imminent European release of Amazon's Android-based Kindle Fire tablet, which has proved very successful in the US, and the arrival of new tablets and ultrabooks based on Microsoft's Windows 8 OS.
"While Apple will continue to sit comfortably on the top for now, the battle for the next several positions is going to be fierce," concluded Bob O'Donnell, programme vice president, clients and displays at IDC.