Apple set to overtake HP to become biggest PC seller in 2012

But Apple couldn't do it without the iPad...

But Apple couldn't do it without the iPad...

 Thanks to sales generated by the iPad, Apple is set to become the biggest PC vendor by mid-2012

Thanks to sales generated by the iPad, Apple is set to become the biggest PC vendor by mid-2012Photo: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Having languished near the bottom of the PC league table for years, Apple is set to become the top PC seller next year.

Apple will overtake HP, the world's largest PC vendor, in the first half of 2012, according to research by analyst house Canalys.

HP currently has a 16 per cent market share of PC shipments, compared to Apple's 15 per cent.

While Canalys has not broken out what level of market share Apple is expected to achieve when it overtakes HP, the analyst predicts that the expected release of a new iPad early next year will be enough to push Apple ahead of its rival, who has struggled with its tablet strategy in recent times.

While tablets are typically regarded as a supplementary device to the traditional PC, Canalys analyst Tim Coulling said the company decided to include tablet shipments under the wider PC banner because slates are increasingly replacing desktops and laptops.

"It may not be that you are able to replace a PC with a tablet completely at the moment but in the coming years it is something which we will see becoming more common," he said.

The release of more software for tablets - especially enterprise software - along with the increased use of desktop virtualisation will make it easier to replace traditional PCs with their slate counterparts, according to Coulling.

And with PCs and tablets also competing for the same budget, Coulling said any analysis of the PC market should include slates.

"We took the view that the iPad will compete for the same share of wallet as PCs and it made sense to look at the market holistically," he said.

However, as 70 per cent of Apple's PC sales in Q3 of this year were made up from sales of the iPad, without the inclusion of tablet devices in the figures, Apple remains a niche vendor with five per cent of the overall PC market.

"In terms of the traditional PC space - as in desktops and laptops - Apple has a far lower market share than HP, but because of the success of the iPad it is pushing for the top spot," Coulling said.

Despite maintaining a niche high-end market position in traditional PCs, Apple's sales in this area are continuing to grow.

"[Apple] is also outperforming the market quarter-on-quarter in its traditional laptop and desktop space so Apple is doing very very well," Coulling said.

Shipments of Apple desktop and laptop computers rose 26 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the third quarter of this year compared to the overall market, which grew by 4 per cent over the same period.