Propelled by high-profile design wins at Apple and Amazon, display makers LG Display and Samsung Display in 2011 remained the top suppliers of panels to the superheated market for tablet devices, accounting for more than 80% of all shipments.

Of the 81,3-million panels shipped to the tablet space in 2011, LG Display controlled the largest portion of the market at 46%, followed by Samsung at 35%, according to an IHS iSuppli Small and Medium Displays Market Tracker report from information and analytics provider IHS.

Between them, the two South Korean electronics garnered a whopping 81% of the entire tablet panel market in 2011. While this was down from the 98% combined share they commanded in 2010, the companies maintained a dominant portion of the market in 2011.

The remainder of the market was split among six suppliers.. The companies in this category included Chimei Innolux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and E-Ink Holdings—all from Taiwan; Tianma Microelectronics and Beijing Orient Electronics Group from China; and Hitachi Displays from Japan.

“LG and Samsung in 2011 retained their positions as the dominant panel suppliers in the media tablet display market due to their sales to high-profile customers, such as Apple Inc. for its iPad, Amazon for its Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble for its Nook, and Research In Motion Ltd. for its PlayBook,” says Vinita Jakhanwal, director for small & medium displays at IHS. “LG and Samsung became the majority suppliers of tablet display panels in 2010, when tablets re-emerged from obscurity thanks to the launch of the iPad that year.”

While LG and Samsung are expected to maintain their dominance this year, new players such as Japanese-based Sharp Corp. and Japan Display, as well as AU Optronics of Taiwan, will begin to gain share.

The tablet has established itself as one of the main forces driving the growth of the market for small and medium displays, defined as panels sized smaller than 10 inches.

Tablet panel shipments this year will reach 144,5-million units, up 78% from 81,3-million units last year. The solid growth predicted for this year follows the phenomenal 408% expansion in tablet display shipments in 2011 from 2010, when shipments were only 16-million units.

Among the various size segments in the tablet panel space, the 9.x-inch category reigned supreme in 2011 with 68% of the market, due mainly to the success of Apple’s iPad. However, the 7.x-inch category will gain increased traction this year, especially if Apple goes ahead with an expected 7.x-inch iPad Mini to compete with similar 7.x-inch tablets already on the market, such as the Kindle Fire and Nook.

Growth in the 7.x-inch segment will translate into a 36% share of market this year for that category, with market share for the 9.x-inch declining to 56%, down from 67% in 2010.

This year will also see increased diversification take place in the tablet supply chain, with display suppliers projected to operate in both high- and low-end tablet segments. More panel suppliers are expected to enter the display business, leading to increased competition.

Higher levels of competition will help to drive down panel costs to OEMs and in turn increase demand and help sustain growth for the tablet panel market, IHS believes.