Android-based tablets picked up shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010, eroding some of Apple’s market dominance in the tablet category.

Apple has been enjoying a monumental lead in the tablet product category since it launched the iPad last April.  The fact that there was hardly anyone else shipping units at the time led to the company being able to declare it controlled 95 percent of the market.  Bloomberg Businessweek is now reporting in the fourth quarter of last year that Android tablets ended up creeping up on the iPad and were able to take 25 percent of the market for the months ending Dec. 31st, knocking Apple down to 75 percent for the time period.

In Apple’s latest quarterly report, the company reported that it shipped 7.3 million iPads, but at the same time Samsung reported in Dec. that it had sold one million Galaxy Tab units by that point in time.  Neil Mawston, director at Strategy Analytics, told the publication, “Apple’s volumes will continue to go up, but market share will inevitably go down.”   Essentially this means that the overall number of tablets sold will continue to rise, and Apple will still sell a considerable amount more of its device, but due to the number of different models on the market, it will be impossible to keep these high levels up.

This is essentially the same thing happening in the smartphone market currently as evidenced by the report earlier today that Android has become the top selling smartphone OS.  Due to the fact Google gives Android away to any manufacturer who wants it, companies are having to spend next to no money on research and development to come up with their own software, allowing for Android tablets to proliferate now at the same speed with which various phones running the software have done.  With the introduction of Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the first version of the software built specifically for tablets, you can expect the numbers to increase even more.

While Google may not be seeing one “must have” device come out, its strategy of getting Android on to as many devices as possible has won out in smartphones, and it looks like that success will be duplicated in tablets as well.

What say you?  Is Google going to win all the various markets by simply the quantity of devices running its software?

Update: Galaxy Tab sales figures updated in the third paragraph.