If the iPad counts, Apple is now the top PC manufacturer worldwide

By on January 31, 2012, 9:39 AM

After a record breaking $46 billion quarter, timing continues to be perfect at Cupertino for a Steve Jobs' "boom" moment. Apple reportedly sold 15 million iPads and 5 million Macs worldwide last quarter, representing 17% of the overall PC market. That is, of course, if you include tablets as part of the pie. Then Apple would have trumped HP to become the world's largest PC vendor.

Research firm Canalys is reporting fourth quarter sales for the PC sector, or what they are calling "client PCs" which includes desktops, laptops, netbooks and tablets. Under that designation, PC sales grew at a healthy 16% year on year, reaching 120 million units. If you were to take tablets out of the equation, then PC sales would have declined slightly by 0.4%, meaning that tablets were the driving force for PC sales last year and Apple evidently captured a majority of those with the iPad.

The Thailand floods are also cited in the report as one of the causes for PC shortages and a "mild disruption" in shipments during the quarter.

Behind Apple is HP, Lenovo, Dell and Acer. Of that group, only Lenovo was able to grow sales by 2 percent, while the rest of manufacturers saw declines. This is not surprising considering tablets were not core products for these companies, and probably won't take much precedence until Windows 8 arrives later this year. Ultrabooks are also expected to spur consumer sales in 2012 for traditional PC vendors.

The report breaks down tablets as accounting for 22% of the total PC shipments during Q4/2011. The Kindle Fire was the second best-selling tablet and the competing Nook took the fifth place.

As we've observed time and time again, there's some subjectivity on what should count as a PC. For a while netbooks were too small and impractical to be included or compared to a 'full PC', today the line dividing netbooks and laptops has all but dissapeared (if not the category as a whole). Personally, at this point, I would say both tablets AND smartphones count as PCs, but there's an obvious difference between the devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop/desktop) from most mobile to least portable, and from least useful to potentially most productive and powerful.

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