A slightly different slant on the gloomy outlook for PCs is that it's actually very healthy - not in spite of Apple's iPad but because of it.
If Apple's iPad is tacked on to Mac shipments (which generally never make the top five in IDC and Gartner figures) Apple became the third largest PC vendor in the world during the fourth quarter of 2010.
According to Canalys, the iPad can take credit for driving PC shipments up by 19 per cent during the quarter, as opposed to triggering a decline as Gartner forecasted last November.
Apple sold 11.5 million units of PCs and tablets in the past quarter, according to Canalys figures, driving its share of the PC market from 3.8 per cent in Q4 2009 to 10.8 per cent in Q4 2010.
That is, if an iPad is categorised as a PC, it would be the first time that Apple has been viewed as a top five PC maker. With the iPad, Apple would knock Dell out of third spot among vendors.
'Pads gave the market momentum in 2010, just as netbooks did the year before,' argued Canalys Senior Analyst Daryl Chiam. 'We are encouraging vendors to plan for the future and not to remain stuck in the past.'
Canalys' redefinition of the category paints a vastly different picture to rival analyst firm Gartner, which downgraded its forecast for PCs in 2011 by 11 million units, largely due to interest in the pad form-factor.
Gartner analysts believed the time for pads to be considered true substitutes had not yet come.
Canalys' Chiam disagreed. 'With screen sizes of seven inches or above, ample processing power, and a growing number of applications, pads offer a computing experience comparable to netbooks."
If Canalys manages to force others to follow, Apple 'PCs' will only trail those shipped by Acer and HP, which shipped 13.6 and 18.7 million units respectively.