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Tablets rising: Apple No.1, Samsung No. 4 'PC makers'

It's not just smartphones -- Apple and Samsung are leading the charge in PCs, which include tablets, according to market researcher Canalys.

Right now, the iPad Mini is fueling Apple's market dominance.
Right now, the iPad Mini is fueling Apple's market dominance.

Market researcher Canalys has again put Apple in top spot among PC makers with an overwhelming 20 percent market share.

Apple shipped 27 million units in the fourth quarter, while HP and Lenovo both shipped around 15 million (HP slightly more than Lenovo), putting them in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.

Samsung is also on the rise: it made an appearance in the top five for the first time, pushing Dell out of fourth place.

All of this is possible because Canalys counts "pads," i.e., tablets, as PCs -- not a ludicrous concept considering that tablets have become personal computers capable of doing many of the tasks once limited to laptops and desktops.

And Samsung is shipping more and more tablets. While not a huge player in traditional PCs, it is a force in Android tablets.

"Samsung, buoyed by strong pad shipments, had its first quarter in the top five, shipping 11.7 million PCs giving it a 9% share," said Canalys.

Of those, 7.6 million were tablets, an increase of 226 percent.

Amazon, another Android tablet player, also got a mention with shipments up 18 percent year-to-year to 4.6 million units.

No. 1 Apple, due to strong iPad Mini shipments, could have done even better.

"Apple's growth in the pad segment was driven by strong demand for the iPad mini. Its overall shipments, however, were hampered by supply issues," the market researcher said.

Canalys estimated that the Mini made up over half of Apple's total "pad" shipments.

There was one word of caution, though. "Despite record shipments, Q4 saw Apple's pad share dip to 49%, becoming the first quarter it has not controlled over half the market."

And there were harsh words for Microsoft's tablet efforts. Canalys gave Microsoft a three percent tablet share in the fourth quarter, with shipments of just over 720,000 Windows RT Surface tablets.

"The outlook for Windows RT appears bleak," according to Canalys.

And as tablet shipments rise, shipments at more traditional PC makers, fall.

"Dell's reputation in the PC market continues to fade. It only shipped 9.7 million units, a 19% 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," said Canalys.