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Apple leads PC market revival - if you count iPads

Apple isn't just a leader in the smartphone market — it also holds the top spot amongst all PC makers, according to new data from Canalys.

The market research firm came to that conclusion because it counts tablets in the same category as desktops, laptops, and notebooks. Overall, worldwide PC shipments increased 12 per cent year over year in the fourth quarter of 2012 to reach 134 million units, with tablets making up a third of that number.

Apple nabbed an overwhelming 20 per cent share of the market, shipping 27 million units - 22.9 million of which were iPads. Mac sales actually dropped during the fourth quarter, which Apple CEO Tim Cook attributed partially to supply issues with the company's new iMacs.

Second-place HP shipped 15 million PCs, narrowly beating Lenovo by just 200,000 units. HP and Lenovo each took 11 per cent market share.

Samsung found itself in the top five for the first time, elbowing Dell out of fourth place thanks to strong tablet shipments. The Korean electronics giant shipped 11.7 million PCs for 9 per cent market share. Meanwhile, fifth place Dell only shipped 9.7 million units in the quarter, a 19 per cent decline compared to 2011 as the company's "reputation in the PC market continues to fade," Canalys said.

The notebook segment struggled, with volumes in the fourth quarter flat compared to the same period in 2011. Even the highly anticipated launch of Windows 8 and the busy holiday shopping season didn't have much of an effect on worldwide shipments.

But troubles in the notebook market came as the tablet segment continued to blossom. It grew an impressive 75 per cent year over year in the fourth quarter to reach 46.2 million units, with full-year shipments totaling 114.6 million units.

Apple's success during the quarter was driven by strong iPad mini demand, though the company faced some supply issues that hampered overall shipments. The Cupertino-based firm's share of the tablet market dropped to 49 per cent, the first quarter it has dropped below the 50 per cent mark.

It was an entirely different story for Microsoft, which struggled to nab a single-digit share of the tablet segment. Just 3 per cent of tablets shipped in the quarter used a Microsoft operating system. Windows 8 and the devices supporting the OS debuted on 26 October.

"The software giant's entry into the PC hardware market was something of a non-event," Canalys said. "High pricing, poor channel strategy and a lack of clarity regarding its RT operating system led to shipments of just over 720,000 units."

Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro, the more full-featured version of its new tablet, debuted on 9 February.

Users Migrate from PC to Mobile

Growth in the tablet market comes as consumers are changing some of their PC usage habits and migrating towards mobile devices for things like Internet browsing and accessing Facebook.

According to a study by the NPD Group, 37 per cent of consumers who used to access content on their PCs switched to their tablets and smartphones. Among tablet owners, 27 per cent said they are using their PC less frequently for accessing the Internet and 20 per cent said they are less often using their PC to check Facebook.

"Despite these shifts in behaviour, computers will remain the fundamental content creation device in the consumer's tool box for many years to come," John Buffone, director of devices for the NPD Group's Connected Intelligence advisory service, said in a statement. "Consumers, however, are switching their entertainment-centric behaviours to tablets, smartphones, and connected TVs at warp speed."