CUPERTINO (AP) — The market for tablet computers is exploding – and almost entirely because of the iPad – research group IDC said Tuesday.

During the third quarter of 2010 – the first complete one with Cupertino-based Apple Inc.’s iPad on sale the entire time – manufacturers shipped 4.8 million tablets worldwide, up 45 percent from 3.3 million in the same period last year.

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IDC said the vast majority of those – 87 percent – were iPads. Tablets running Mountain View-based Google Inc.’s Android software, a fixture on smart phones, went on sale later and have yet to take off as the iPad has.

IDC only counted media tablets that run software designed for mobile devices. Excluded are devices that have touch screens but run the same software you’d find on a full-fledged PC – namely, Windows.

IDC suggested that as 2011 wears on, newer Android tablets, such as Motorola Mobility Inc.’s Xoom, could steal market share from the iPad, though Apple doesn’t seem likely to lose its stronghold in the category it created.

Meanwhile, sales of e-readers jumped 40 percent to 2.7 million during the quarter. Inc., maker of the Kindle, dominated the category, with 41.5 percent market share. Pandigital was a distant runner-up with 16.1 percent. Nook maker Barnes & Noble Inc., Sony Electronics Inc. and Chinese manufacturer Hanvon Technology Co. Ltd. round out the top five e-reader brands.

IDC estimated that manufacturers sold 17 million media tablets and 10.8 million e-readers in 2010. Although the research group believes U.S. consumers bought about 72 percent of the e-reader market last year, it estimates that only 40 percent of media tablets were sold in the U.S.

Sales of these products – particularly tablets – will continue to grow over the next two years, IDC said, with tablet sales reaching 44.6 million units in 2011 and 70.8 million in 2012. The research group said e-reader shipments will reach 14.7 million units in 2011 and 16.6 million in 2012.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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