updated 10:35 am EST, Wed February 16, 2011
DisplaySearch says Apple now top in PCs with iPad
Apple may have wrested the top spot from HP in portable computing if its surging iPad sales are factored in, DisplaySearch said in an estimate. The combination of the tablet and Macs saw Apple ship 10.2 million portables of some kind in the fall to claim 17.2 percent of the market. HP's clinging to traditional Windows notebooks PCs would have dropped it to second place at 9.3 million, or 15.6 percent.
Acer, Dell and Toshiba would round out the top three, although Dell is usually an overall stronger seller in computers as a whole through its desktops.
The growth for Apple would be part of a two-pronged attack, Senior Analyst Richard Shim said. Although the iPad will have been what helped Apple make the leap, Mac sales are still growing well ahead of most rivals at about 23 percent from year-to-year, with either category not seeming to hurt the other.
"Cannibalization seems limited at this point," he explained, referring to users buying an iPad instead of a low-end MacBook.
Debates have persisted about whether the iPad can count as a computer. DisplaySearch has been willing to count it to show the relative effect, but other analyst firms like Gartner and IDC have often tried to keep them separate as "media tablets." Until recently, they avoided even mentioning the iPad by name despite its having a virtual monopoly on tablets and sparking a slowdown in netbooks. Opponents have usually maintained that a computer needs a desktop-class operating system and to act independently of a computer to work; the iPad currently needs to sync with iTunes to initialize, grab firmware updates or back up locally stored content.
Tablets like the iPad have regardless been increasingly used for tasks that would have otherwise involved a netbook, such as browsing or checking e-mail on the road. The much thinner and lighter designs, as well as the frequently much longer battery life, have often worked in the category's favor.