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Global sales of tablet computers surged by 142.4 percent in the first quarter of 2013 as more and more consumers chose small-screen devices over PCs, research figures showed.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) research firm reported Wednesday that tablet shipments in the first quarter of the year had totaled 49.2 million units, eclipsing the total for the entire first half of 2012.

The research group said demand for tablet devices showed no sign of letting up, with the introduction of Apple's iPad mini helping fuel the boom.

"Sustained demand for the iPad mini and increasingly strong commercial shipments led to a better-than expected first quarter for Apple," said IDC analyst Tom Mainelli.

Although Apple's share of the market had fallen to 39.6 percent from 58.1 percent a year ago, the firm remained firmly on top of the tablet sales charts, shifting 19.5 million units in the first quarter.

Apple sales exceeded analyst forecasts of 18.7 million units, IDC reported.

Number two vendor Samsung also posted better-than-predicted sales numbers, with 8.8 million units compared to 2.3 million units over the same period last year. IDC said Samsung had harnessed the power of its popular Android smartphone to bring its tablet products into new markets and channels.

The skyrocketing demand for tablet computers came after sales of personal computers nosedived by 13.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to IDC figures released earlier in April.

It was the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year declines for PC shipments, a fall attributed to the booming tablet and smartphone markets.

Elsewhere, ASUS posted the third highest number of tablet sales (2.7 million units) thanks to its Nexus 7 device, edging clear of Amazon.com with 1.8 million units.

Microsoft entered the top five for the first time with its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablet devices accounting for nearly 900,000 units.
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