Apple gains market share – really?

Posted: 12.09.10

I don’t think so.

According to DisplaySearch (a division of NPD that counts screens shipments), Apple captured a 12.4% share of global mobile PC shipments in Q3’10, benefiting from the iPad effect. In other words, because Apple shipped a lot of iPads the company’s market share in “mobile PCs” increased.
OK, go Apple, but, the press release from DisplaySerach makes me wonder if we have to reassess our definition of what a “PC” is?

Up until now I had a somewhat parochial opinion that a PC had to run Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X, i.e., “Snow Leopard.” (The iPad runs the same operating system as the iPod Touch and iPhone: iOS)

I also held the opinion that a mobile PC needed a >10-inch screen, but there were Netbooks (e.g., Asus Eee) with seven-inch screens, so screen size wouldn’t disqualify the iPad from being called a “PC.”
I did tend to think a “PC” meant it had an x86 processor in it.

And then there were the productivity applications like Microsoft’s Office, or Open Office, but the iPad does have iWork which has similar if not totally compatible applications. It can run its own applications as well as ones developed for the iPhone.

I also fretted over USB – does a machine have to have USB to qualify as a PC? There are lots of mobile phones, STBs, and game consoles with USB, and we wouldn’t call them PCs, so maybe that’s not a qualifying feature. And you can get USB things to work with the iPad, you just need to use an extender (but, so far, the only files the iPad recognizes from the extender are image and video files).
So what then is the definition and qualification to be called a “PC?” Are iPads, and the slew of ARM-based tablets that are about to inundate us, PCs?
I asked some of our analysts and writers if they thought the iPad was a PC and here’s a summary of their comments.

No, the iPad is not a PC because:
• You need a computer to use many of its functions.
• A PC is expandable and upgradeable. An iPad is as closed and inaccessible.
• A PC lets you install any software you want on it. The iPad requires Apple’s permission.
• No developer needs anyone’s approval to make and ship a PC application.
• A PC is a content and information creation device. An iPad is a consumption device.

People (a few) will try to use it as a PC replacement but they'll end up carrying three devices - smartphone, notebook, tablet. The iPad has proven to be a competitor to ebooks more than PCs, so if you carried an e-book, smartphone, and PC, you might replace the ebook with an iPad.

Nonetheless, a great future is predicted for the iPad:

But it ain’t a PC, and therefore shouldn’t be counted as one when figuring market share.