If you count iPads, Apple is now top PC maker

The iPad has garnered enough sales to make Apple surpass HP as the world’s number one computer vendor. That is, if you count the iPad.

Market research firm Canalys puts Apple’s tablet in the same category as HP’s sophisticated laptop and desktop computers, and says that the Cupertino-based tech giant accounted for 17% of worldwide computer shipments in the most recent fiscal quarter.

Of that, 5.2 million units were actual Mac computers, while 15.4 million were iPads. There are sure to be some who think the iPad doesn’t qualify as a computer since it doesn’t have a disc drive, comes without a keyboard or mouse, and is unable to run anything that most people consider “computer software.”

But take a look at this number – if you don’t consider the iPad (and other tablets) as a computer, then computer sales decreased by 0.4% year-to-year. With the iPad included, the number grows by 16%.

So clearly there is a paradigm shift in terms of what consumers are buying when they head to the electronics store.

Canalys also discussed HP’s tablet strategy and the fact that it is not looking at Android. “Currently, HP is pursuing a Windows strategy for its pad portfolio, producing enterprise-focused products, such as the recently launched Slate 2, until the launch of Windows 8,” analyst Tim Coulling noted.

“However, questions remain over Microsoft’s entry into the consumer pad space. While early demonstrations of the Window 8 operating system seem promising, Microsoft must focus its efforts on creating an intuitive user experience that is far less resource intensive,” he said.