Is an iPad a portable media device? A tablet computer? Something entirely "post-PC"? The answer, of course, is "it depends who you ask."
Let's go ahead and define the parent category for iPads (and other tablets like the Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Google Nexus) as "mobile screens that run a touch-centric OS, don't ship with a hardware keyboard, are larger than a mainstream smartphone and don't offer telephony as a core feature." Call that a tablet, or a "pad" if you must to distinguish it from legacy tablet PCs and the potential fridge toasters of Microsoft's Surface devices.
If that's the bucket we're talking about, some reasonable sales comparisons are available. The fourth quarter of 2012 saw Samsung ship 7.6 million pads, and Amazon shipped 4.6 million, according to a report released today by research firm Canalys. With Apple's reported sales of 22.9 million iPads, it's pretty clear who's leading the category.
Canalys's report doesn't leave it at that, however. With a wave of the marketshare wand, the report combines 22.9 million iPads with Apple's reported sales of 4.1 million Macs in the quarter. Accordingly, the firm puts Apple's total PC sales at 27 million for the quarter, handily crushing second-place HP's 15 million units shipped.
In fact, if you admit the iPad to the PC club, Apple's quarter put it above 20 percent of the global PC share for the first time. From October 1 to December 31, in that 13-week quarter -- given the looser, flatter, touchable definition of a PC that Canalys is proposing -- one out of every six PCs sold worldwide was actually an iPad.
I wish to take nothing away from Apple's achievements with the iPad. Selling 23 million of anything is really rather tough, and a jar of salsa's a far cry from a device with an average selling price $150 higher than a ticket from New York to LA. But just because consumers may be choosing the iPad as an alternative to buying a laptop or a computer doesn't necessarily mean they should be counted as members of the same taxon.
Both by form and function, the iPad and its fellow "pad" products should really be considered post-PC devices distinct from PCs and also from smartphones -- they don't require a keyboard or mouse, they don't run legacy Win32 or Mac apps, they don't usually make phone calls. And they surely don't sell the way PCs do.
[via NYT Bits]