iPad Boosts Apple into Top-Five PC Vendor Rankings

The iPad has not only launched Apple into the top-five worldwide PC vendor rankings, but it's encouraging a new tablet market that's expected to overtake netbook sales by 2012.

The Apple iPad is at the front of a changing mobile device market, affecting PC sales and consumer purchases, research firm Canalys announced in a July 26 report.

According to Canalys figures, Apple is now among the top-five PC vendors worldwide, following the iPad's capture of approximately 6 percent of the portable PC segment during the second quarter of 2010. During the iPad's first months on the market, Apple sold more than 3 million units of the long-awaited device. The iPad's feature list and branding cache aside, Canalys partly attributes the iPad's strong sales to a lack of innovation in the netbook space.

"Apart from the -Apple effect,' the iPad owes its success to a lack of advancement in other portable computing segments, such as netbooks," Chris Jones, a Canalys principal analyst, said in a statement. "To capture share moving forward, PC makers will have to take the netbook to the next level or go after new customer segments with their own pads."

Hewlett Packard, Dell and Lenovo have, along with slew of PC manufacturers, already launched or announced plans for tablet devices of their own. Key to creating a winning product, said Jones, will be offering a "great user interface" with hardware and software that "work together in harmony." Over the next three years, he expects to see a number of platforms - such as Google's Android and Chrome, Apple's iOS, Microsoft's Windows, Intel and Nokia's MeeGo, and possibly Research In Motion's BlackBerry - "battle it out in the pad market."

Canalys is forecasting sales of tablets - or "pads," as it calls them - to reach 12.5 million units in 2010 and grow to 66 million units by the end of 2014. Due to the iPad's early start, the firm expects Apple to lead the market through at least 2011, while a number of vendors enter the market, experimenting with devices aimed at both consumer and enterprise users.

"As the number of consumers with multiple devices increases, it will also be important for pads to seamlessly integrate with existing equipment," Canalys senior analyst Natalie Spitz said in the statement. "In addition to synchronization capabilities, vendors should be prepared to take a strategic look at content - all-important, but often overlooked."

Spitz added that, as increasing numbers of smartphones and mobile devices with all-day battery life join the market, consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to always-on connectivity.

"It's only natural then," she said, "that these same consumers would demand similar features across all of their portable computing devices."

Canalys considers tablets to be luxury devices, and expects consumers to weigh potential purchases against the purchase of a netbook, eventually causing the netbook market to soften. Not all analysts agree with that view. In a July 22 report, ABI Research predicted that netbook sales, set to reach shipments of 60 million units by the end of 2010, will more than double during 2013. While Canalys expects netbooks and tablets to coexist for a time, it expects that tablet sales with overtake those of netbooks by 2012.