Apple: The PC King

Tickers in this article: AAPL AMZN DELL HPQ

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of Apple (AAPL) have been trounced in recent months for a variety of reasons; concerns over innovation, results that miss Wall Street expectations, and worries about competition. Where Apple cannot be dethroned, though, is as the king of the computing world, although that depends on how you define 'computer'.

Research firm Canalys has come up with an interesting take on PC sales, which also counts tablets, noting that Apple is now the dominant player in the space. Canalys says that one-in-six PCs shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012 was an iPad, with Apple selling 22.9 million iPads (many of these were iPad minis, according to Canalys) during the period. Apple also sold 4.1 million Macs.

Traditionally, people have seen tablets and PCs as competitors, with tablets taking market share and cannibalizing PCs. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said repeatedly that the iPad is cannibalizing PC sales and, to an extent, Mac sales. During Apple's recent earnings conference call , Cook said that the market for PCs is weak, with research firm IDC estimating a 6% contraction in the December quarter.

HP (HPQ) is still the largest traditional PC seller in the world, selling 15 million units by Canalys' estimate, with Lenovo, Samsung, Dell (DELL) and Amazon (AMZN) making up the rest of the top five. As tablets get bigger and more powerful (see Apple's 128 GB iPad) , the line between tablets and PCs will continue to blur.

As the business community increasingly turns to iPads instead of PCs for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it will need more storage to get the job done. Hence Apple's latest iPad.

"With twice the storage capacity and an unparalleled selection of over 300,000 native iPad apps, enterprises, educators and artists have even more reasons to use iPad for all their business and personal needs," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, in the press release describing the 128 GB iPad.

The knock on tablets has always been that they are content consumption, rather than content creation, devices. Most people would rather watch Netflix (NFLX) or a movie from iTunes on their tablet than on a PC. With Apple adding a significant amount of storage to its iPad and the release of a full-fledged Microsoft (MSFT) Surface tablet running Windows 8, the line is blurring, and may soon be erased.

Research firms IDC and Gartner have yet to count tablets as traditional computers, though with Canalys now doing so, it seems as if it's only a matter of time before this happens.

Do you think a tablet is a computer? Let me know in the comments section.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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