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Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 02:44 pm PT (05:44 pm ET)

HP CEO: Apple likely to take away PC leadership position next year

HP's new chief executive Meg Whitman told journalists Apple was doing "a great job" and that her company's once much smaller rival could likely pass HP to become the world's leading PC maker next year.

When asked by French newspaper Le Figaro if she agreed with the Canalys forecast predicting that Apple's sales of Macs and iPads would make it the leading PC vendor in 2012, Whitman directly answered "Yes."

She added (via Google translation), "I think it's possible if you integrate the shelves. Apple makes a great job. We need to improve our game and our products to take over the leadership position. Apple could go past HP in 2012. We will try to become the champion in 2013. It takes time for the products on which I have come to influence the market."

Whitman also noted that she devoted two teams of 100 employees in total to study whether or not to spin off or sell HP's Personal Systems Group that builds PCs, a decision that eventually resulted in HP announcing that it would keep the PSG in place.

A separate decision on the fate of HP's webOS will come within the next two weeks, Whitman added, noting that HP still has a team of 600 employees "in limbo" waiting for an answer. AppleInsider previously reported expectations within HP that a decision could come this week.

Asked if tablet computers were comparable to PCs, Whitman answered that they weren't yet, noting that tablets are mainly used to "consume media and emails," and that they can not run "productivity software such as Microsoft."

"Our studies show that this is an additional purchase that does not encroach on the PC market," Whitman said, refuting the iPad's until now uncontroversial impact on the PC market. "This is an important area on which we want to go," she added.

Interestingly, HP beat Apple's iPad to market last year with its Slate PC running Windows 7, a device that could run Microsoft's Office software. However, the market largely ignored the HP Slate PC (and other tablet devices running Windows 7) and HP abandoned the product as it shifted its development resources toward building this year's webOS-powered TouchPad, which also failed to find interest in the market.

Whitman has since indicated that HP's future tablet strategy will return to using Microsoft's Windows 8, which is expected to be available at the end of next year. Microsoft is also rumored to be hedging its tablet bets by bringing its Office software to the iPad, where Apple's own iWork apps exist as top selling productivity software in the App Store.