Canalys is, as far as we know, the only major market research firm that has chosen to include tablet shipments in overall PC unit shipments.
There is quite a bit of controversy whether that is an appropriate way to measure PC numbers, but for those who consider a tablet a PC, Apple is now the world's leading PC company, according to Canalys.
About 120 million "client" PCs (including tablets, desktops, netbooks, notebooks) were shipped in Q4, which represented 16 percent annual growth, according to the market research firm. Excluding tablets, to which Canalys refers to as "pads", the PC industry's shipments contracted by 0.4 percent.
Apple shipped about 15 million iPads in Q4 and about 5 millions Macs, which hands the company a 17 percent market share, Canalys said. Apple gained six market share points year-over-year, while Acer, Dell and HP lost market share.
Canalys predicts a difficult future especially for HP. “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.”
Lenovo was the only other large manufacturer to gain market share during the quarter (2 points) and is more likely to succeed in the tablet space, Canalys said: "The vendor’s decision to use Android for enterprise and consumer pads gives it a better opportunity than HP to continue gaining market share."
Canalys noted that "pads" accounted for 22 percent of the PC shipment volume in Q4 2011, driven primarily by Apple's iPad, the Amazon kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook. “The consumerization of IT continues to be a significant disruptive force in the PC industry, but many of the leading vendors have failed to capitalize on the trend to date,” said Coulling. “This year will be a pivotal year for those vendors that were slow to launch pads. It is not just the product that they need to get right, business models are equally important - driving revenues from content delivery can help vendors reach lower price points in a market that is incredibly price sensitive.”