updated 09:35 pm EST, Wed February 6, 2013
One in six 'PCs' shipped during the year was an iPad, stats say
When iPads are counted along with notebooks, ultrabooks and desktops, Apple's dominance in the tablet space pushes it to the top individual brand of computer maker for the second year running, going from a 17 percent share in 2011 to over 20 percent share in 2012. The increase and ranking are largely due to the 23 million iPad units sold in the holiday quarter alone -- along with just over four million Macs, the shipments accounted for 20 percent of total computer shipments.
It's quite possible that Apple's percentage would actually be even higher if sales, rather than shipments, were counted -- however, most of Apple's competitors mask true sales figures; particularly with regards to tablets, which appear to sell poorly compared to the iPad. Another, more accurate measure of actual end-user use of tablets gives Apple an 81 percent share of tablets (or at least those being used to access the Internet) -- compare this to the 49 percent of "shipments" Apple is said to have had in the fourth quarter.
Canalys, which performed the surveys in 2011 and 2012, credits the launch of the iPad mini just prior to the holiday buying season as a savvy decision that capped a year of growth for Apple, which even saw Mac shipments rise to over five million in the quarters before the holidays. Had the new iMac been available at retail or more easily obtainable by buyers, said CEO Tim Cook, Apple would have sold nearly the same number of Macs in the holiday quarter as it did in the prior quarter.
Apart from Apple's total of 27 million shipments, the rest of the top five computer makers were HP and Lenovo with a total of 15 million units each, with Samsung achieving fourth place (its first time in the top five, mostly on the strength of increased tablet shipments that more than doubled from 2011 -- but again, no final tablet sales figures from the South Korean company were available). Dell rounded out the list in fifth place.
Overall, the tablet market grew 75 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter, with a total of 46.2 million units shipped -- half of which were iPads. However, without the success of the iPad mini, Apple's strong leadership position in the tablet market may have been threatened by lower-cost, 7-inch rivals -- at least in shipment numbers -- such as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. The full-size iPad continues to sell well, but the Mini version appears to have caught on strongly with budget buyers, e-book readers and the younger demographics.
The staggering growth of the entire tablet industry, and iPads in particular -- as a category, iPads went from not existing to being Apple's second most popular product category in less than two years -- compared to the flat growth rate of notebooks and decline of desktop PC sales would appear to bear out the vision of Cook. He has repeatedly predicted -- in one of his most often-quoted views not directly attributable to something Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs had said earlier -- that the tablet market would soon become bigger than the PC market. In 2012, one out of every six "PCs" sold were actually iPads, a device that did not exist this time three years ago.