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Apple rips mobile PC crown from HP

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Apple has vaulted to number one in worldwide mobile-computing market share in the fourth quarter of 2010 – leapfrogging both HP and Acer – thanks to the surging popularity of its "magical and revolutionary" fondleslab, the iPad. At least that's the word from one research outfit.

"While we anticipate increased competition in the tablet PC market later this year with the introduction of Android Honeycomb-based tablets," said analyst Richard Shim when announcing the DisplaySearch study that named Apple as number one, "Apple's iPad business is complementing a notebook line whose shipments widely exceed the industry average growth rate."

Sharp-eyed Reg readers will notice that Shin said "tablet PC", not merely "tablet". Although there may remain some disagreement among many as to whether tablets should be counted as PCs, DisplaySearch displays no such doubt.

DisplaySearch mobile-computing statistics

Is Apple's iPad a 'Mobile PC'? We report, you decide

You'll also notice that Shin gave props to Apple's MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air lines, as well: the DisplaySearch study notes that sales-growth rates of Apple's notebooks continue to "exceed the industry average".

Apple's winning 17.2 per cent market share is no squeaker. Its 10.2 million units sold in the quarter are nearly one million above HP's 9.3 million, and a full 1.8 million above Acer's 8.4 million. Number-four Dell sold a comparatively weak 5.9 million mobile PCs, and number-five Toshiba came in at exactly half of Apple's sales.

Apple's sales grow was rapid. In the third quarter of 2010, Apple sat in third place in market share at 12.4 per cent, behind HP at 17.3 and Acer at 16.5.

Acer's numbers, in fact, were juiced by sales resulting from its partnership with the Chinese manufacturer, the Founder Technology Group, which it entered into last May to give it a leg up in the Middle Kingdom.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, overall mobile PC sales hit 59.6 million, the highest since DisplaySearch started counting them in 1999. That number represents a 17 per cent growth year-on-year, and a healthy 8 per cent growth in that iPad gift-giving holiday quarter alone.

But it was tablets – well, the iPad, actually – that fueled that growth: notebooks grew an anemic 1 per cent year-on-year.

Apple has clearly benefitted from what DisplaySearch calls its "first-mover advantage", essentially owning the tablet market by itself. Sorry, fans of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Dell Streak, but you know it's true.

This year, however, will be different as the Motorola Xoom, HP TouchPad, RIM PlayBook, and a host of others jockey for some of that worldwide tablet (PC) action.

Whether the numbers look different by this time next year, however, is anyone's guess – and we're guessing "Yes." ®

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