Is Apple the PC King?

Personal computing is headed for a touchscreen world. According to fourth-quarter data from Canalys, one in every three PCs shipped globally in the three months was a tablet, and Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad accounted for just under half of that sector. Overall, one in every six PCs sold was an iPad, and with Mac sales taken into account, Apple was the top PC vendor in the world.

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The iPad mini was the big winner for the company, according to the research firm. “Apple timed the launch of the iPad mini well,” Canalys’ Pin-Chen Tang wrote. “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.”

Supply problems plagued Apple throughout the quarter, with the company losing majority control of tablet sales for the first time. “Despite record shipments, [the fourth quarter] saw Apple’s [tablet] share dip to 49 percent, becoming the first quarter it has not controlled over half the market.”

Apple shipped 27 million units of Macs and iPads in the fourth quarter for a 20.1 percent share of the overall PC market, Canalys said. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) came second with 15 million units and an 11.2 percent share, while Lenovo, in third place, was just 200,000 units behind it. Samsung (SSNFL.PK) shipped 11.7 million units for a 9 percent share of the overall market, with most of its sales coming from the Galaxy Tab line.

Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), which is soon going private, rounded out the top five, though it saw a 19 percent drop in shipments. And with Windows 8 making very little impact on shipments — only 3 percent of the tablets shipped in the quarter were based on that operating system — Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) involvement with the Dell buyout may be questionable, the research firm said.

“Microsoft’s involvement in the Dell buyout raises eyebrows in the light of its recent aspirations to become a hardware vendor,” Canalys wrote. “But it is not likely to solve Dell’s problems as even Microsoft struggles with pads.”

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) grew a massive 18 percent to 4.6 million units on the back of the success of the Kindle Fire line, but couldn’t make the top five.

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Worldwide PC, inclusive of tablets, shipments rose 12 percent to 134 million units in the quarter. Gartner said in a recent release that PC shipments, exclusive of tablets, fell 5 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the same period last year.

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