Tablet shipments up 200 percent as netbook demand tanks

HP regains top spot over Apple for client PC shipments, while Ultrabooks and Windows tablets will shake up market later this year

Tablet shipments soared 200 percent over the past years, according to research company Canalys, but Apple didn't ship enough iPads in Q1 to retain the No. 1 position for the most client PCs shipped. The distinction went to HP, which has bounced back from a rocky 2011, spurred in part by an improving global economy that helped push notebook shipments up by 11 percent and desktop shipments up by 8 percent.

The future of netbooks, meanwhile, doesn't look particularly bright. Shipments for that breed of computing hardware were down 34 percent year over year, marking the sixth successive quarterly decline.

"Most of the leading PC vendors have done a reasonable job of offsetting the declines in their netbook shipments over the past year with increased pad business," said Canalys research analyst Tom Evans. "The challenge is breaking out into the really big volumes to challenge the leaders -- Apple and Amazon. So far, only Samsung has shown it can routinely ship more than a million pads a quarter."

Broken down by vendor, HP shipped the most client PCs this quarter, according to Canalys -- about 40,000 more than the 15.8 million Apple delivered. Lenovo took third place, with year-on-year growth of 50 percent. Acer and Dell took the remaining spots in the top five, but both companies saw shipments drop since Q1 2011. All in all, 107 million units shipped this past quarter, marking an overall 21 percent increase.

By year's end, the overall client PC landscape could change considerably, thanks to some key factors. First, Microsoft will have launched Windows 8, which is designed for both desktop clients and tablets. If the OS proves a hit, the Apple iPad could lose some ground to Windows tablets from the competition.

"If you look at the U.S., pads are approaching 40 percent of all client PC shipments," said Canalys VP and principal analyst Chris Jones. "The pad proposition for U.S. consumers is very strong, thanks to the wider choice in content and apps."

Second, according to Canalys, thin and light laptops will start approaching mainstream price points later this year. Ultrabooks -- the Windows PC answer to the lightweight MacBook Air -- already are enjoying unexpected levels of adoption. Dell revealed this week that it has sold three times as many ultraslim XPS 13 units than expected. Sony, meanwhile, released its first Ultrabook today, part of the new Vaio T family.

Further, though Canalys expects Q2 shipments to be soft, the company foresees growth as vendors refresh their portfolios with models built on Intel's Ivy Bridge processors.

This article, "Tablet shipments up 200 percent as netbook demand tanks," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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