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Apple passes HP as top PC maker when counting iPad sales


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New data released on Monday by market analyst Canalys shows that Apple's iPad was instrumental to an overall growth in the client PC market for Q4 2011, as excluding the tablet's sales numbers would see the sector posting a net loss.

Record-setting earnings for the December quarter put Apple ahead of HP as the world's number one PC vendor, with the company's combined sales of 15.4 million iPads and 5.2 million Macs accounting for 17 percent of the total 120 million PC shipments worldwide.

Canalys notes that desktop, netbook, notebook and tablet sales grew 16 percent from the year ago quarter, however if iPads are not included as PCs, that number would drop to negative 0.4 percent.

PC sales were crippled during the holiday season due to a flood in Thailand that impacted hard drive manufacturers, with the effects of the disaster expected to carry on into the first half of 2012.

Lenovo was the only top-five PC maker besides Apple to increase its market share, while Acer, Dell and HP all posted losses year-to-year. In comparison, the Cupertino, Calif., company gained six points over its performance during the same quarter in 2010.

Apple's top performance was followed by HP, Lenovo, Dell and Acer, respectively.

Rise of the Tablet

Last year was said to be "The Year of the Tablet," and Apple CEO Tim Cook quipped during the company's earnings conference call that he thinks "most people would agree, it was the year of the iPad for the second year in a row."

Tablet PCs are becoming an increasingly attractive option to traditional computers, and the mobile devices accounted for 22 percent of total PC shipments during the fourth quarter of 2011. Behind the iPad's booming sales was Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble's Nook Tablet, which garnered those vendors second and fifth place spots in the tablet market, respectively.

“Currently, HP is pursuing a Windows strategy for its pad portfolio, producing enterprise-focused products, such as the recently launched Slate 2, until the launch of Windows 8,” said Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling. “However, questions remain over Microsoft’s entry into the consumer pad space. While early demonstrations of the Window 8 operating system seem promising, Microsoft must focus its efforts on creating an intuitive user experience that is far less resource intensive.”

With the inclusion of tablets, PC markets grew in all regions during the last quarter, but not including the devices, shipments in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America showed decline as a weak demand in Western Europe and the U.S. bucked the usually positive holiday sales trend.

The Asia Pacific and Latin America regions continued to rise as a burgeoning middle class begins to adopt mobile computing, and even managed a one percent increase in notebook sales.

Apple is actively making inroads in Asia with new stores and product launches, and has been rumored to have hired a dedicated region chief for Latin America.