Apple makes it into top five PC makers

Statistics are funny old thing. Vic Reeves once said that 88.2 per cent of statistics are made up. We think that's probably a conservative estimate.

Far be it from us to suggest that some bean counters will cook the books in order to get the results they want to see, but there is always flexibility in what things you decide to count, or how you to decide to count them.

One case in point is Apple's iPad. Is it a personal computer or an overgrown iPhone?

The thorny subject has reared its head because everyone likes charts and league tables and leadership ladders. We all like to know where our favourite companies rank and Apple fans in particular are always keen to prove to their PC-toting brethren that they are anything but inconsequential when it comes to computer sales.

There are dozens of analyst outfits out there counting our computers and charting their growth and decline on big fancy charts, which they sell to other people who shift money about to make people they don't know, and who don't actually work for a living, more money.

These people make a living telling other people how many things a company has made, how many of them it sold, and how much cash it is likely to make in the future.

Companies like Gartner and Canalys watch companies like Apple very closely, shadowing their customers and digging through their bins for any scrap of evidence they find. (OK we made the last bit up... probably).

Now it turns out that some analysis outfits are counting the iPad as a PC (Canalys) and some of them aren't (Gartner).

which might seem academic to some, but actually makes a huge difference if you happen to work for Apple.

The problem is, if you don't count the tablet-based iPad as a PC (we're not going to get into definitions here, we're going with, if you work on it - it's a PC, if you play on it - it's a gadget) Apple is the seventh biggest manufacturer of personal computers in the world.

If, however, you are willing to let the iPad onto the PC club, Apple takes up a much more impressive fifth place, leapfrogging both Toshiba and Asus into the bargain.

HP still leads the pack with 17.4 per cent, followed by Acer (13 per cent), Dell (12.4 per cent) and Lenovo (10 per cent).

But Adding Apple's 3.5 million traditional desktop and laptop computers to the 3.2 million iPads the outfit has shifted this year puts the Cupertino company into an altogether different league with a shade over eight per cent of the entire market.

So where do you draw the line? We suspect that Dell and HP would like to draw it just under their lowest spec netbooks for the time being. Until they come out with their own Johnny-come-lately tablets later this year, that is.

So is the iPad a personal computer or an overpriced lifestyle gadget strictly for people with £100 haircuts? Vent your spleen in the comments below.

Kudos to Reghardware for sparking the discussion