When it comes to 'smart connected devices' — think PCs, tablets and smartphones — Apple's iPhone 5 and iPad mini have put it within a whisker of leader Samsung.
Samsung accounted for 21.2 percent of the 378 million devices shipped in the last quarter of 2012, placing it just ahead of Apple's 20.3 percent, according to analyst firm IDC. Apple has gained five percentage points since the previous quarter, compared with Samsung's one percent rise. Samsung overtook Apple as market leader by shipments last year, due largely to the South Korean company's increasing smartphone sales, IDC said.
IDC estimates there were 1.2 billion smart connected devices shipped last year. The multi-form factor category was worth $168bn for the fourth quarter, which Apple dominated with 30.7 percent of revenue, while Samsung accounted for 20.4 percent.
IDC expects last year's tablet shipments of 128 million to grow 48.7 to 190 million units by the end of 2013, by which time they will overtake desktop shipments, which reached 148 million in 2012. Desktop shipments are expected to decline 4.3 percent this year.
It does not expect tablets to surpass last year's portable PC shipments of 202 million until 2014, in line with the timeframe fellow analyst firm Canalys has predicted. Portable PCs shipments will be practically flat at 0.9 percent growth, said IDC.
IDC's timeframe for tablets to surpass PC shipments flesh out a forecast in February by analyst Sameer Singh, who predicted tablets could overtake PC shipments as early as Q4 2013.
The fastest growth is expected to come from emerging markets, where IDC notes tablets grew 111 percent in 2012, compared with 62 percent in mature markets.
Smartphone shipments also grew faster in emerging markets at 39 percent compared with 20 percent in mature markets.
"In emerging markets, consumer spending typically starts with mobile phones and, in many cases, moves to tablets before PCs," said Megha Saini, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Smart Connected Device Tracker.
"The pressure on the PC market is significantly increasing and we can see longer replacement cycles coming into effect very soon and that, too, will put downward pressure on PC sales."
IDC also gave its four year outlook, predicting tablet sales to reach over 350 million and portable PCs to hit 240 million.