Back in the mid-1970‘s a young engineer named Steve Wozniak pitched his boss at Hewlett-Packard on his idea for building a personal computer. Back then, computers were offered as kits designed for techies to build, not the finished, consumer products they are today. HP told Wozniak it wasn’t interested so he went on and joined his pal Steve Jobs to start a company called Apple Computer.
Fast forward about 35 years and Apple is looking in the rear view mirror at HP as it just passed the computer giant as the leading volume producer of PCs in the world, according to the latest research by Canalys covering the fourth quarter of 2011.
The biggest factor in Apple’s favor in the results is that research firms like Canalys now count tablets as PCs. Apple shipped over 15 million iPads and 5 million Macs in the quarter, giving it 17% of the total 120 million PCs shipped globally in Q4.
Tablet sales also boosted the total PC market (desktops, netbooks, notebooks and tablets) into positive growth territory for the quarter. Canalys says that minus tablets the PC market actually declined 0.4% compared to the same quarter a year ago; with tablets the overall market grew 16% from a year ago.
Of the top five PC vendors Canalys said that only Lenovo managed to increase its market share, a mere two points, compared to Apple’s six-point gain over the same quarter a year ago. Acer, Dell and HP – the hardest hit – all lost market share.
Canalys says one of HP’s key challenges will be to regroup following it’s disastrous launch of the TouchPad that the company chose to discontinue after only about six months on the market.
“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.”
Pads accounted for 22% of total PC shipments during Q4 2011. In addition to Apple’s strong performance, Canalys notes that two new tablet entries, the Amazon Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet by Barnes and Noble, helped boost tablet sales in the U.S. with Kindle Fire claiming second place behind the iPad and the Nook Tablet coming in 5th for market share.
Could Ultrabooks challenge tablets?
Looking ahead, Canalys says the new generation of Ultrabooks promoted by Intel and its many hardware partners will take some time to have a serious impact on the market. Ultrabooks are very thin and lightweight, Windows-based notebooks similar conceptually to Apple’s MacBook Air.
“We expect Ultrabook volumes to see limited adoption through the first half of 2012, before finally gaining momentum later in the year as price points decline and Intel launches a new line of processors and embarks on an aggressive marketing campaign,” said Canalys Research Analyst Michael Kauh. “In the short term though, vendors will experience more pressure in the netbook and notebook segments, especially with Apple’s annual iPad refresh approaching.”
Numerous reports suggest Apple will unveil a successor to the iPad, dubbed the iPad 3, either next month or in April.