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iPad retains 74% tablet market share as Apple sits among top 5 PC vendors

Apple's iPad accounted for 74 percent of tablet shipments in the first quarter of 2011, as combined Mac and iPad sales made Apple one of the top five PC vendors in the world by volume.

Research firm Canalys revealed on Thursday its estimated PC shipments for the first quarter of calendar 2011. Apple ranked fourth in the three-month frame with total combined iPad and Mac shipments of 8.5 million.

Apple's sales were good for 9.5 percent of the global market, and represented a whopping 187.9 percent year over year increase, thanks largely to the success of the iPad.

The iPad remained the dominant tablet in the market in the first quarter, accounting for 74 percent of all devices shipped. Apple's market dominance came even as the company reported slower than expected sales of 4.69 million iPads last quarter, as production of the in-demand iPad 2 began to ramp up.

Canalys noted that the full impact of the iPad 2 launch won't be realized until subsequent quarters are completed, as it launched in the latter part of the previous quarter and stock was extremely limited.

"Taking into consideration the iPad's 'halo effect' on the company's other products, Apple has grown considerably in most markets worldwide," Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling said. "As the iPad 2 and its competitors continue to roll out, we expect pad sales to propel PC market growth for the rest of the year."

The firm recently conducted a survey that found most tablet owners use the device like a PC rather than a media player or e-book readers. The most common uses for a tablet — which Canalys refers to as "pads" — are Web browsing, e-mail and messaging, and social networking.

"This broad usage pattern reinforces the pad's role as a general-purpose computing device, and much more than just a consumption device," Coulling said. "The pad represents a real threat to PC and consumer electronics vendors, as it is capable of replacing devices in a range of other categories."

Combined Mac and iPad sales put Apple ahead of Lenovo, which shipped 8.2 million units and earned a 9.2 percent share. Lenovo posted 17 percent year over year growth.

Apple lagged behind rival Dell, which took third place with 10 million units shipped. Dell's PC business grew 2.8 percent year over year, and accounted for 11.3 percent of global PC shipments.

The top global PC vendor for the first quarter of 2011 was HP, which shipped 14.7 million units and took a 16.6 percent market share. In second was Acer, with 11.3 million shipped PCs and a 12.8 percent share. Both leaders saw their sales slip year over year.

Apple's share in the first quarter of 2011 did slip from the end of 2010, when Canalys said that Apple was the No. 3 global PC maker. Including the iPad gave Apple an astounding 241 percent year over year growth during the holiday period.