Tablet computers using Google's Android software narrowed the lead of Apple's iPad on the global market in the fourth quarter, research firm Strategy Analytics said on Thursday.

Global tablet shipments reached an all-time high of 26.8 million units in the fourth quarter, growing 2-1/2 fold from 10.7 million a year earlier, the research firm said.

Dozens of Android models distributed across multiple countries by numerous brands such as Amazon, Samsung, Asus and others have been driving volumes, analyst Neil Mawston said in a statement.

Android's market share rose to 39 percent from 29 percent a year earlier, while Apple's share slipped to 58 percent from 68 percent a year before.

The tablet computer market grew 260 percent last year to 66.9 million units as consumers are increasingly buying tablets in preference to netbooks and even entry-level notebooks or desktops.

Strategy Analytics said Microsoft had a 1 percent share of the global tablet market last quarter.

(Reporting By Tarmo Virki; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)