Apple's game-changing tablet, the iPad, is generally placed in a separate design class than that of personal computers such as desktops and notebooks, but research firm Canalys, which includes tablets in the PC category, found that one in six PCs shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012 was an iPad.
Including iPad sales, worldwide PC shipments increased 12 percent year-on-year in the fourth-quarter to reach 134 million units. This is in contrast to the findings of a study from IT research firm IDC, which reported 90 million PCs shipped during the holiday quarter—a 6.4 percent drop from shipments a year earlier and worse than the 4.4 percent decline IDC expected. The quarter also represented the first time in more than five years that the PC market declined year-on-year during the holiday season.
Apple continued to lead the PC market with 27 million units shipped, which boosted its market share to more than 20 percent for the first time, according to Canalys. Hewlett-Packard shipped 15 million PCs, outpacing Lenovo by 200,000 units to regain second place, with both vendors achieving an 11 percent share. Samsung, bolstered by strong tablet shipments, had its first quarter in the top five; the company shipped 11.7 million PCs for a 9 percent share, which put it in fourth place ahead of Dell.
"Dell's reputation in the PC market continues to fade. It only shipped 9.7 million units, a 19 percent decline on 2011. Its direct business model is expensive and unsuitable for driving growth in new markets. A turnaround in fortunes is likely to take years," the report noted. "Should the planned buyout go through, it will give the company time to rethink its strategy and refocus, away from the demands of Wall Street and shareholders."
Although supply issues have hampered shipments, Apple's tablet sales were driven by strong demand for the iPad Mini. The report estimated that the 7-inch device made up more than half of Apple's total tablet shipments, owing to an attractive price point (a debatable point of analysis) and compact design, which Canalys said has led to "significant cannibalization" in the iPad range and the wider PC market.
The holiday quarter also marked the first time Apple has not controlled half the tablet market; the company's share stood at 49 percent at the end of 2012, despite record shipments.
"Apple timed the launch of the iPad Mini well,' Canalys research analyst Pin-Chen Tang said in a statement. "Its success proves there is a clear demand for pads with smaller screens at a more affordable price. Without the launch, Apple would surely have lost more ground to its competitors."