Apple To Overtake HP For PC Lead

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The arrival of the iPad 3 will help Apple overtake HP and become the leading PC vendor in the world

The legacy of Steve Jobs looks like it may be a lasting one, after one analyst predicted that Apple will overtake Hewlett-Packard and become the leading PC maker in the world.

This is according to Canalys, which predicted that Apple will snatch the PC top spot before the second half of 2012.

It also predicted that global PC shipments will reach 415 million units in 2011, a rise of 15 percent year on year, thanks to the ongoing demand for tablet PCs.

Apple/HP Bunfight

Canalys pointed to the success the iPad in helping Apple reach second place in the worldwide PC market during Q3 2011. It predicts that “total pad shipments” will reach 59 million units by the end of 2011, with Q4 volumes predicted to exceed 22 million.

But it did admit that the recent arrival of the Kindle Fire in the United States, plus the new Nook Tablet, will impact the American market and could finally bring some pressure to bear on the Apple juggernaut.

“Apple has seen its PC market share expand from 9 percent to 15 percent in just four quarters, though iPad shipments in its core market – the United States – are likely to come under pressure in Q4 due to the launch of the Fire and Nook at extremely competitive price points,” said Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling.

“HP and Apple will fight for top position in Q4, but Apple may have to wait for the release of iPad 3 before it passes HP,” Coulling added.

Profit Struggle

The prediction is somewhat ironic considering that HP will, in effect, be the standard bearer for the PC form factor against Apple. This is despite the fact questions remain over HP’s full commitment to its PC unit after the company toyed with the idea of spinning it off an separate unit earlier this year.

And the Canalys research also threw up another interesting nugget, when it warned that many vendors are struggling to compete profitably with Apple, as they battle to make similar devices but at attractive prices to lure potential buyers away from the Apple camp. HP for example opted to terminate its tablet plans as part of its August shakeup.

Canalys pointed out that the release of Android 4.0 (ICE or Ice Cream Sandwich) should bolster the top tier of manufacturers, because “combining smart phone and pad operating systems will enable developers to adapt existing applications to run on pads.”

“Conversely, the release’s timing may harm vendors looking to capitalise on strong holiday season sales,” the analyst warned. “Much of the IT channel’s stock now runs on older versions of Android 3.1, and many vendors are not forthcoming with upgrade timescales, which will deter informed consumers.”

Ultrabook Price Cut

But what about the other form factors? Well it seems that notebook sales also helped fuel market growth in 2011, with total shipments anticipated to hit 211 million, a 10 percent year-on-year increase.

Canalys believes that Intel’s Ultrabook concept will bring much needed innovation to the category, to drive notebook sales over the next five years. But prices have to drop considerably if they are going to tempt people away from tablets.

“For Ultrabooks to become widespread, prices have to drop considerably,” said Canalys Research analyst Michael Kauh. “The least expensive models are currently around $800 (£511), a real barrier to mass consumer uptake. As more vendors embrace the Ultrabook design, component costs should drop and mainstream consumer prices will be achieved.”

Last week HP launched its own ultrabook offering priced at $899. This joins other Ultrabooks from the likes of Asus and Acer.

Challenging 2012

Meanwhile the vendor joined other industry observers of warning of the challenging conditions facing the PC market in 2012, thanks to the flooding in Thailand which continues to severely impact the global hard disk drive (HDD) market.

This is because Thailand is responsible for around 40-45 percent of the world’s HDD production, and the business disruption has already led to price rises. However the analyst suspects a side-effect will include a boost in solid-state drive (SSD) production and lower prices that will benefit pad and ultrabook vendors.

Last month Gartner revealed that HP is still the PC top dog in terms of actual shipments, as its figures put HP on 17 percent during the third quarter, with Lenovo in second place and Dell in third.

However Gartner has previously admitted that the arrival of the tablet form factor is impacting PC sales.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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