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Apple and Android split Santa's stash, go on Xmas PC and tab high

Microsoft: What a difference a low base makes

Apple sold more tablets and PCs than anybody over the Christmas trading period but – just like everybody else – it felt growing pressure from Google’s Android.

That is the story of PC and tablet makers for the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the first numbers for the period from analyst outfit Canalys, given to The Register on Thursday.

Canalys's estimates are a more accurate guide to the health of the PC sector than most because the analyst counts actual product sold to customers.

Other beancounters count product sold to channel partners, instead. Canalys also combines PC and tablet shipments.

Canalys found Android champion Samsung held in check by Lenovo, which came in second place on shipments for another successive year.

Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, more than doubled its Surface slab business but only thanks to Surface RT, which it no longer makes. Surface RT has since been superseded by Surface 2.

For the fourth quarter of 2013, 157 million desktops, notebooks and tablets altogether were sold by all vendors combined, an increase of 17.9 per cent from a year ago.

Apple shipped more units than anybody – 30.9 million, an increase of 14.7 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2012 – helping Apple retain its number-one position.

Samsung grew the most quickly but the electronics giant was held in third place by China’s Lenovo, which landed second place for another year.

The Korean chaebol shipped 18.2 million units for the period, growing 55 per cent, with 90 per cent of its business coming from Android-based tablets – to the tune of 14.5 million units.

Despite this, Samsung was pipped to second place by Lenovo, which shifted a total of 18.6 million PCs and tablets and grew its total business by 25 per cent year-on-year.

It was a combination of aggressive price cuts and expansion outside its core market of China and Taiwan that drove Lenovo, according to Canalys.

Also, Lenovo bucked the dominant narrative of a nose-diving PC market to growth not just in its tablets but also in PCs, laptops and notebooks.

Lenovo sold 3.38 million tablets, 6.36 million desktops and 8.89 million notebooks – up 328 per cent for tablets, and 9.5 per cent each for desktops and notebooks.

Canalys pointed to Lenovo’s innovation in form factors, with laptops that flip and twist to become tablets such as the Windows 8-based Yoga. Also, Lenovo was aggressive on price.

By operating system, Google’s Android was tops by raw market share – 61 per cent for the quarter compared to 47 per cent a year ago.

Google’s operating system was driven by Samsung attacking on price and also by the presence of budget PC and tablet makers and local entrants like Tesco in the UK.

Apple’s iOS came second with 34 per cent, and while this was down year on year from 49 per cent iOS jumped from the third quarter, from 27 per cent.

Canalys attributed this to the timely launch of the iPad Air and iPad Mini, which helped freshen up Apple’s appeal.

Bottom of the pile came Microsoft and Windows 8. Bottom, like success in this dynamic story, was a relative term and in some respects Microsoft will feel relieved because 2013 was a step up out of the pit that was 2012.

Redmond grabbed 4.4 per cent of the tablet market with Windows 8, up from 3.4 per cent a year ago.

Of that, Microsoft was the single largest OEM to offer Windows 8 via Surface, with Microsoft accounting for 51 per cent of sales of Windows 8 tabs.

What do these percentages look like in actual, real numbers? We're talking about 1.76 million Surfaces sold worldwide compared to 722,000 a year ago.

In the UK, Microsoft sold 124,000 Surfaces – up from 90,000 in 2012.

Microsoft will be celebrating, but it it’s coming from a low number.

And, as with every silver lining there’s a cloud: Surface RT that saved Microsoft’s bacon and only thanks to some heavy discounts to shift unsold inventory.

According to Canalys, Surface RT was “the majority” of Surface shipments for the three-month period. ®

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