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The market for tablets is continuing to climb dramatically, reaching 49.2 million units shipped worldwide in the first quarter, up from 20.3 million units a year earlier, according to an IDC research report issued today.

ipadminiThat’s in sharp contrast with the market for traditional computers. An earlier report by IDC said that PC shipments declined 14 percent over the same time period, dipping to 76.3 million units.

That means the tablet market is now 64.4 percent the size of the traditional PC market, as measured by total units shipped. The gap between the two markets is continuing to shrink, and it’s now looking inevitable that the tablet market will ultimately be larger than traditional computers, as many in the industry have predicted.

Check out our chart above to get a sense for what the trends look like in tablets and traditional PCs, and how the changes have been sparked by the launch of key devices over the past few years.

The big question in the industry is which tablet makers will take the most advantage of this trend over time. So far, the winner is clear. IDC’s numbers show Apple with market share of nearly 40 percent in the first quarter, with Samsung in second place at 17.9 percent of the market, followed by ASUS, Amazon and Microsoft Surface.

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