Is Apple really the world’s biggest-selling PC vendor?

Analyst firm Canalys overnight released its numbers for 2011’s global PC market Q4 results uncovering this unprecedented bombshell: Apple has stormed past HP to become what the group calls the leading worldwide client PC vendor. But the catch is this: Canalys includes tablet sales in its definition of what a ‘client PC’ is whereas a conventional PC vendor analysis would usually only consider desktop and notebooks as PCs.

According to a report from Barron’s Canalys’ principal analyst admitted the inclusion of what the firm calls ‘pads’ in the count might be deemed “controversial” but defended the thinking behind the method saying: “We do see it as one big market of mobile computing. These tablets are not just about consumption any more people can do much more with them than when they first appeared. The application breadth has increased and they are being used more and more as business tools.”

And you know what? He’s right. Every day we’re seeing greater innovation and full-bodied ‘PC-style’ functionality in all manner of tablet apps — across iOS Android and other platforms — and the release of a tablet-tailored Windows 8 expected before the end of the year is sure to blur the boundaries of the conventional categories even further. While it’s arguably a stretch to unilaterally include tablet sales in PC sales figures today given the prevalance of the conventional approach (and doing so has certainly garnered Canalys its share of publicity) if so many people are picking up tablets in place of ‘traditional’ PC purchases isn’t it time our notion of what a PC can actually be was itself challenged?