Just as research firm IDC reported Monday that Apple’s market share of the red-hot tablet market plunged in the third quarter came — for Apple shareholders and fans, anyway – welcome news. (By the way, there’s good news in the report for Lenovo as well.)

The iPad Mini sold out in its first weekend Apple says. Plus, iPad Minis and the new iPad models produced 3 million sales. That total represented in a mere couple of days a a big percentage of Apple’s total third quarter sales of 14 million.

Android tablets, meanwhile, cut sharply into Apple’s market share dominance to 50.4 percent from 65.5 percent in the second quarter. IDC described the drop this way: “Apple … saw its share slip notably …”

Overall tablet sales surged an amazing 49.5 percent from a year ago to a whopping 27.8 million. That number ls a 6.7 percent jump from the second quarter, IDC noted.

However, what good news Samsung, Amazon and others could savor from the quarterly performance had to be off-set by the Mini debut.

As IDC noted, many people probably held back from buying a tablet, wanting to wait for the Mini even though it remains more expensive than Android competitors.

Perhaps figuring in as well was the launch of Microsoft’s own Surface Tablet running a version of the new Windows 8.

Once the Minis hit, people began buying around the world in big numbers.

“Demand for iPad mini exceeded the initial supply and while many of the pre-orders have been shipped to customers, some are scheduled to be shipped later this month,” Apple proclaimed Monday.

Sales of iPad Minis and the newest iPads reached some 3 million.

Analysts quoted by Bloomberg expected as many as 1.5 million Minis to be sold and set a target of 3 million “to demonstrate adequate demand,” Bloomberg noted. 

Even with the new iPads and the Mini, IDC predicted increasing competition for Apple.

“After a very strong second quarter, Apple saw growth slow as both consumer and commercial (including education) shipments declined, and rumors of a forthcoming iPad mini began to heat up,” said Tom Mainelli, research director for Tablets at IDC, in the report.

“We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini,” he added. “Now that the new mini, and a fourth-generation full-sized iPad, are both shipping we expect Apple to have a very good quarter. However, we believe the mini’s relatively high $329 starting price leaves plenty of room for Android vendors to build upon the success they achieved in the third quarter.”

Samsung certainly is hot with its Galaxy models, selling 5.1 million in the third quarter, which is up a sensational 325 percent from a year ago and an impressive 115 percent from the second quarter.

Good Lenovo News

The IDC numbers also show strong growth for Lenovo, which is a new player in tablets with a growing number of models but emerging as a player even as it threatens to move past HP as the world’s No. 1 PC maker in all reports. (The two companies are basically tied.)

IDC described Lenovo’s growth as “solid.”

“Lenovo’s gains were driven by strong shipments in China,” IDC noted.

Lenovo sold 400,000 tablets last quarter, good for a small market share of 1.4 percent. That total is double shipments of a year ago.

As part of the company’s “Protect and Defend: strategy, Lenovo is combating Apple head-on in its home base not only for tablets but also for smartphones.

Another fast grower is ASUS.

“Competitors are turning up the pressure on market leader Apple,” said IDC’s Ryan Reith, who is the program manager for Mobile Device Trackers. “With the recent introduction of a number of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, consumers now have a third viable tablet platform from which to choose. However, price points are critical in tablets, and Microsoft and its partners will have a tough time winning a share of consumer wallet with price points starting at $500.”

[LENOVO ARCHIVE: Check out seven years of Lenovo stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]