When is a Gadget Considered a PC?

Dennis Faas's picture

According to a new set of statistics from tech analyst firm Canalys, Apple is now the world's largest manufacturer of computers. But the figures include gadgets such as the iPad tablet device, causing some to wonder exactly what it takes for a device to be defined as a computer.

The figures cover shipments during the last three months of 2011. They show that Apple shipped 20 million "personal computing devices," accounting for 17 per cent of the worldwide total.

In second place belongs to Hewlett-Packard (HP) with 12.7 per cent, followed by Lenovo at 11.2 per cent, Dell at 9.9 per cent and Acer at 9.3 per cent.

These five companies alone are credited with making and shipping three out of every five new computers, worldwide.

Given the PC vs Mac rivalry, some observers may be surprised to see Apple in the top spot. However, only five million of Apple's shipped devices were Mac computers. The remaining 15 million units were the company's lighter, smaller, cheaper iPads. (Source: pcworld.com)

When is a Computer Not a Computer?

Many in the tech world are now debating whether tablet devices should be counted as computers.

One argument is that computers should be defined by their physical forms. For example, a true computer must have a full-sized keyboard. That requirement would rule out some netbooks. However, it is possible to plug a standard keyboard into an iPad. So, is it a computer?

Another argument is that a computer should be defined by what you do with it. If this wins the day, then iPads count as computers because they carry out the most popular computer tasks, namely: sending / receiving emails, browsing the web, displaying movies, and playing music.

A third argument is that a computer should be as capable of creating content as consuming it. That makes the situation murky, because iPads can be used for word processing, although they clearly aren't as convenient or powerful for this task as a standard PC.

Tablets Helping PC Market Expand

These and other distinctions really are important when it comes to overall statistics.

With tablet devices included, the total number of computers shipped to market was up 16 per cent over the same period last year.

With tablets excluded, PC shipments fell 0.4 per cent, a disappointing occurrence. (Source: informationweek.com)

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