Recent numbers in from market research firm IHS iSuppli shows a shift in the tablets wars of late.

Apple iPad market share in 2011 dropped from 64% in the 3rd quarter to 57% in the 4th. Much of this was down to competition with its own iPhone4S released in October, but the first tablet that isn’t a tablet – the Kindle Fire – also played a starring role.

ISuppli estimates that Kindle Fire sales were approximately 3.9 million, giving Amazon‘s new kid on the block around 14% market share. This is in part to aggressive marketing tactics against the iPad as an ebook reader, but also their competitve pricing put the Fire in range of a much larger range of people, and trading of the strength of the Kindle brand, also a viable gift option.

Will Apple buckle and enter the 7″ tablet space, with an iPad Mini at a price point closer to that of the Kindle? Apple will never come near the $200 of the Kindle Fire, but they could conceivably ship a 7″ iPad with the same resolution as the current models at a discounted price of say $299 or $349. This would put them squarely in the 7″ tablet space and make the ‘no-brainer’ decision that the Fire is for many when compared to the iPad2 a much harder choice.

IHS iSuppli research on tablet marketshare 2011