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Samsung has made plenty of headlines over the past year about surpassing Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) -- everything from smartphone unit shipments to advertising appeal. However, Apple's strong showing in the fourth quarter thanks to a slew of new products helped the Cupertino company, according to a recent report out from market researcher IDC.
Looking at the broader market for connected devices -- smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- Apple grew its share of all units up to 20.3% in the fourth quarter. That's less than 1% behind Samsung's 21.2% share of all units moved. Specifically, the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini played a large part in that jump. The 2012 figures were actually already released a little over a month ago, but now IDC is adding additional data regarding revenue as well as long-term forecasts.
When it comes to revenue share, arguably more important for investors, there's little competition. Apple gobbled up 30.7% of connected device revenue in the fourth quarter, crushing Samsung's 20.4% by a healthy margin. Samsung's focus on low-end and mid-range targets is giving it upside in unit share, but doesn't do as much for its revenue share. Even after Apple releases its expected mid-range iPhone, don't ever expect Samsung to overtake Apple in revenue or profit share.
Looking farther out, IDC expects total tablet shipments to top 350 million by 2017, which will be pretty close to the roughly 380 million PCs that the researcher expects to ship that year. For context, there were 128 million tablets shipped in 2012 and 350 million PCs. Smartphone units could potentially top 1.5 billion by 2017. Most of that growth is expected to come from emerging markets, which is why the aforementioned mid-range iPhone will be so important over the next few years.
However, I wouldn't put too much weight on IDC's specific long-term forecasts, since four years is a long time in the world of consumer electronics, and a lot can change. Just look how badly its netbook forecasts turned out after the iPad launched.
That said, the moral of this story is still that emerging markets will drive much of the future growth, thanks in large part to widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets. Stop me if you've heard that one before.
There's a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.