Setting the mood for Apple at the beginning of 2013, figures by a Canalys report highlight that the company maintained its lead in the global PC market – it shipped 27.0 million units and took its share over 20 percent for the first time. Global PC shipments rose 12 percent year-on-year in Q4 2012 and touched 134.0 million units, with tablets accounting for more than a third. 

Elaborating on Apple’s successful run in the tablet segment, the report adds that its growth was driven by strong demand for the iPad mini. Its total shipments however, took a beating owing to supply issues. Interestingly, as per Canalys’ estimates the mini took over half of Apple’s total tablet shipments, with its viable price point and compact design leading to significant cannibalisation in the iPad range and wider PC market. The Q4 of 2012, however saw Apple’s pad share dip to 49 percent, becoming the first quarter it has not controlled over half the market. “Apple timed the launch of the iPad mini well,” said Pin-Chen Tang, Canalys Research Analyst. “Its success proves there is a clear demand for pads with smaller screens at a more affordable price. Without the launch, Apple would surely have lost more ground to its competitors.”

Taqking cues from tablets (Image Credits: Getty Images)

Apple continued to do well in the pad segment (Image Credits: Getty Images)

HP shipped 15 million PCs, taking its place above Lenovo, beating it by 200,000 units. Both vendors took an 11 percent share. Samsung’s position was boosted, courtesy its strong tablet shipments, and consequently saw its first quarter in the top five. Samsung shipped 11.7 million PCs, giving it a 9 percent share and fourth place ahead of Dell. 

Further though, the report highlighted that the notebook market continued its downward spiral, with Q4 volumes showing flat compared with the same period in 2011. It elaborates that the combined strength of the Windows 8 launch and holiday sales in Western Europe and the US had little effect on worldwide shipments. As for the tablets though, the growth was by 75 percent to 46.2 million units, with full-year shipments totaling 114.6 million units.

Bad news for Dell as the report cites that its ‘reputation in the PC market continues to fade’. The statement reflects in the fact that it only shipped 9.7 million units, witnessing a 19 percent decline on 2011. “Its direct business model is expensive and unsuitable for driving growth in new markets. A turnaround in fortunes is likely to take years,” the report continues to add further. 

“Microsoft’s involvement in the Dell buyout raises eyebrows in the light of its recent aspirations to become a hardware vendor.” Worryingly though for Dell, this too is being seen as ineffective to bring in good times for the company, since Microsoft too, isn’t doing too well as far as tablets go. Only 3 percent of tablets shipped in Q4 2012 used a Microsoft operating system. 

“The software giant’s entry into the PC hardware market was something of a non-event. High pricing, poor channel strategy and a lack of clarity regarding its RT operating system led to shipments of just over 720,000 units.” 

“The outlook for Windows RT appears bleak. Hardware OEMs are ignoring it due, in part, to a pricing strategy that does not align with the economics of the pad market,” said Tim Coulling, Canalys Senior Analyst. “We expect Microsoft to rethink its pricing strategy for RT in the coming weeks. Dropping the price by 60% should get OEMs back onside”. 

Amazon's worldwide shipments grew 18 percent to 4.6 million units, since the company widened the Kindle Fire range and launched in markets outside the United States. Its international growth masked a decline in its home market, as it struggled to upsell customers to its larger-screen products. 

South Korean giant Samsung shipped 7.6 million tablets in Q4, an increase of 226 percent, driven by its ability to push products down into lower price bands. As hardware commoditisation accelerates, targeting low price points is now a requirement for any vendor looking to ship Android tablets in volume. 

Delving into an interesting aspect, that of Android-running tablets, the report revealed that the success of Amazon and Samsung has seen an increase in the share of Android-based pads, which now account for 46 percent of the segment. “The sub-$200 price bands now feature products from established players that do not rely on low-quality components,” said Tom Evans, Canalys Research Analyst. “Those who control ecosystems, such as Amazon and Google, can obtain revenue from content sales, but pure hardware OEMs must accept decreasing margins or exit.”

As for Google, its Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 products did considerably well, as per figures from this report. Their combined shipments touched 2.6 million units. “The Nexus products occupy slightly higher price points than similar devices from Samsung and Amazon. Google’s hardware play is as much about showcasing Android and its services as it is about driving volume sales,” the report revealed. 

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