Analyst: Apple grabs top ‘PC’ spot as HP loses ground

Apple’s record-setting holiday take has made life difficult for PC makers. The fact those stellar numbers coincided with a down quarter for the general PC market didn’t help. But research firm Canalys believes Lenovo, Acer and the rest can still stage a comeback.

Canalys named Apple the new top dog of PC client vendors, pointing to the 15 million iPads and 5 million Macs it sold last quarter. Those numbers boosted the overall PC client market, which includes all major computing devices, by 16 percent, said the research group. Subtract the iPad’s stellar figures, however, and that same market actually dropped by less than 1 percent.

According to Canalys, HP was hit the hardest by the recent PC slump, but remains in second place – an unenviable spot considering its departure from the PC tablet scene and Apple’s momentum.

“Currently, HP is pursuing a Windows strategy for its pad portfolio, producing enterprise-focused products, such as the recently launched Slate 2, until the launch of Windows 8,” said Tim Coulling, Canalys analyst. “However, questions remain over Microsoft’s entry into the consumer pad space. While early demonstrations of the Window 8 operating system seem promising, Microsoft must focus its efforts on creating an intuitive user experience that is far less resource intensive.”

Microsoft published a Windows 8 developer preview last September at its BUILD conference. The Redmond software giant promised its upcoming OS will push a mobile-friendly Metro style design template, apps and distinct advantages for tablet users.

Canalys Research Analyst Michael Kauh said ultrabooks remain PC makers’ ace up the sleeve. The next-gen notebooks, spearheaded by Acer and chip maker Intel, have yet to see widespread adoption, but that could change before the end of the year.

“We expect Ultrabook volumes to see limited adoption through the first half of 2012, before finally gaining momentum later in the year as price points decline and Intel launches a new line of processors and embarks on an aggressive marketing campaign,” said Kauh. “In the short term though, vendors will experience more pressure in the netbook and notebook segments, especially with Apple’s annual iPad refresh approaching.”

Apple has yet to formally break the silence on its next iPad model, though rumors about the device are certainly at a surplus. Insiders told Bloomberg earlier this month that the iPad 3 will hit stores in March. If its predecessor’s success is any indication, the battle between Apple and PC makers is just getting started.