Tablets Fuel PC Growth as iPad 2 Goes International

Helped by the Apple iPad, the worldwide PC market grew 7 percent during the first quarter, according to Canalys, which counts PC and tablet sales together.

Led by the Apple iPad, worldwide PC shipments increased 7 percent during the first quarter, according to research firm Canalys, which includes tablets in its counts of PC sales, rather than listing them separately.

PC shipments during the quarter totaled 88.6 million units, up from 82.8 million a year ago, while tablet shipments reach 6.4 million units worldwide."Apple continued with its strategy to dominate the pad market," Canalys said in an April 28 statement, "with the iPad or iPad 2 available in 59 markets by the end of Q1."Apple accounted for 74 percent of the tablet market during the quarter, the report added, despite iPad shipments being down 31 percent sequentially. Consumers held off from buying the iPad after Apple announced in March that its iPad 2 would soon launch across additional markets.On April 27, Apple announced that the iPad 2-which is 33 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than its predecessor-would arrive in Japan the following day, and in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and eight other countries on April 29. The full impact of the iPad 2, according to Canalys, won't be known until future quarters.Despite Apple's dominance and uncontested success, Canalys nonetheless expects to see a "significant change" in tablet market shares next quarter, as new devices arrive from LG Electronics, Research In Motion, Acer and Asus. That should come as good news, as rising tablet sales are said to come at the cost of PC manufacturers focused on consumer netbooks and notebooks-particularly Acer and Asus."Overstocked retail channels and unsteady consumer confidence in major European countries and the United States cast a shadow over the potential for notebook market growth during the remainder of 2011," stated the report. "Likewise, the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan led to an 8% slowdown in the local PC market there. The natural disasters also contributed to supply chain disruption and uncertainty-highlighted in many IT vendors' quarterly financial reports-the consequences of which will continue to be felt in the second half of the year."Still, rising tablet sales are expected to boost overall PC figures through 2011."As the iPad 2 and its competitors continue to roll out," Canalys analyst Tim Coulling said in a statement, "we expect pad sales to propel PC market growth for the rest of the year."A recent Canalys consumer survey additionally shed light on the life of tablets beyond the sales counter, finding that, more than as a media player or ebook reader, they're being used in ways that resemble PCs. While tablet owners reported using their tablets primarily for Web browsing, emailing and messaging, and social networking, non-tablet owners suspected the devices were more heavily used for ebook reading and video watching."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," said Coulling.The Canalys report adds, however, that the ways tablets are used depend largely on the devices' screen size, with data suggesting that users lean more toward video watching than ebook reading on a 10-inch display than a 7-inch one."Vendors should continue to promote content consumption as an important benefit of pads, especially as ownership spreads to older consumers, while highlighting other uses of the device and preloading advanced browsers and localized messaging and social networking apps," said Canalys Chief Analyst Adam Daum. "Pad app stores also need to offer a broader inventory of both apps and content designed to take full advantage of a pad's size and functionality.'Apple CEO Steve Jobs has notoriously dismissed the relevance of 7-inch displays, and the iPad features a 9.7-inch touch screen.On May 6, a WiFi-only iPad 2 will additionally be available in China. Further international availability, said Apple, will be announced at a later date.