iPad sales push Apple to top of the mobile PC heap

Shipping more than twice as many iPads as Mac laptops last quarter, Apple crushes rivals in mobile PC sales

The Apple iPad continues to prove itself a game changer for computer industry, as sales of Apple's popular tablet have pushed the company to the No. 1 spot over HP, Acer, Dell, and Toshiba in terms of mobile computers shipped in the final quarter of 2010.

All told, Apple shipped 10.2 million mobile PCs in Q4, says research from DisplaySearch. According to other recent reports, as many as 7.3 million of those machines were iPads. That means Apple outsold its own line of laptops at a rate of about 2.5 to 1. Sound impressive? Then also consider that Apple enjoyed overall higher-than-average laptop sales last quarter, according to Display Search

Were it not for iPad sales, in fact, Apple would not have made the list. DisplaySearch reports that HP shipped 9.3 million mobile PCs in Q4, Acer shipped 8.4 million, Dell cranked out 5.9 million, and Toshiba rolled out 5.1 million.

Further illustrating the market's hunger for tablets, mobile PC shipment growth increased by 8 percent quarter over quarter, according to DisplaySearch, and 17 percent year over year if you include tablets in the mix. Subtract tablets, and shipments were up just 4 percent quarter over quarter and 1 percent year over year.

Apple wasn't the only company to ship tablets last year, but it was the only one that made much of a splash. Samsung shipped its Galaxy Tab last year, but it came in a distant No. 2 after Apple in terms of sales. Dell started shipping the Streak, too, but the device suffered lackluster reviews and hasn't sold well. Additionally, HP started hawking its Slate 500 last year, but only built around 5,000. For the time being, Apple is the dominant force in the tablet space.

However, this battle is just beginning. Google has rolled out a new version of Android groomed for tablets instead of smartphones. That could level the playing field a bit. Notably, Android-based tablets already enjoyed a sales boost in Q4, according to market analysis firm Strategy Analytic. Android-based tablets represented 22 percent of total global tablet shipments in Q4, up from 2.3 percent in Q3.

Additionally, HP should, at long last, start shipping WebOS-based tablets this year; those, too, could put a dent in Apple's slice of the tablet pie.

For the time being, Apple is in an enviable position. Not only was it first to market with a tablet that users of the world truly wanted, but its rivals have been incredibly slow in mounting anything to counter the iPad.

This story, "iPad sales push Apple to top of the mobile PC heap," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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