iPad Shipments Propel Apple Past HP to Top Mobile PC Position

Ch … ch… ch … changes. It wasn't long ago that the idea of Apple having a leading share of the mobile PC market was pretty far-fetched. But today Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) can crow about reaching the top spot of DisplaySearch's quarterly ranking of worldwide mobile PC shipments.

According to preliminary results from the DisplaySearch report, Apple shipped more than 10.2 million notebook and tablet PCs combined, nearly a million more units than HP (NYSE: HPQ) in the fourth quarter of 2010. And while Apple has had the tablet PC market largely to itself, DisplaySearch notes it's one of the few vendors to see growth in its notebook PC line as well.

Overall, the growth in notebook PC shipments, excluding tablets, was weak, up 4 percent in Q4 from last quarter and only 1 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

Toshiba was the only other company besides Apple among the top five mobile PC brands to exhibit year-to-year growth in shipments, increasing 15 percent to over 5.1 million units in the last quarter. Toshiba ranked fifth in DisplaySearch's overall mobile PC rankings.

Research firms typically don't include tablet devices in with mobile PC shipments, but DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim said Apple's changed how tablet devices -- once relegated to a niche sector -- should be perceived.

"The traditional boundaries don't really apply anymore. The iPad is a computing device that can run applications. It has a processor, uses memory and has local storage," Shim told InternetNews.com. "How many years have consumers been asking for instant on and longer battery life? Apple's addressed that need and consumers have voted with their dollars."

Shim said he expects Apple to maintain its leading position in mobile PC shipments for all of 2011.

"We're projecting the tablet market will reach 55.7 units in 2011 and Apple will have the leading market share by far," said Shim. "You have to remember the competition is coming but it's not even really out there yet."

Newer tablets based on Google's mobile OS optimized for tablets, Honeycomb or Android 3.0, aren't out yet (the older version of Android ships on devices such as Samsung's first Galaxy Tab) and the PlayBook from Research in Motion, Cisco's Cius and HP's webOS-based TouchPad have yet to be released.

"Apple has the benefit of momentum and there's nothing holding them back. When other devices come out they'll have to compete with each other even as all of them are being compared to the iPad, which has set the standard to beat," said Shim. "And if Apple releases a new iPad as expected that could be another pregnant pause the rest of the industry is going to have to adapt to."

HP came in second in the DisplaySearch quarterly rankings with 9.3 million mobile PCs shipped in Q4 for a 15.6 percent market share (Apple leads with a 17.2 percent share). Acer, Dell and Toshiba round out the top five with 14, 9.9 and 8.6 percent share respectively.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


iPad, Apple, HP, hardware, Acer