After selling 15 million iPads and 5 million Mac desktops and notebooks, the Reading-based channel-watchers calculated that Cupertino now accounts for 17% of the total 120 million client PCs shipped globally during the last three months of the year, a figure that was itself up 16%.
Tablet form factors actually accounted for 22% of total shipments during Q4, said Canalys, with sales of competing products such as Amazon's Kindle Fire helping boost global volumes, although not enough for Amazon to trouble the big-hitters.
The impact of the tablet was seen most clearly in the fact that had Canalys not taken their numbers into consideration, both the EMEA and North American markets would actually have declined.
Canalys' Tim Coulling said that given the success of the iPad, 2012 would be a critical year for the tablet.
"This year will be pivotal for those vendors that were slow to launch pads. It's not just the product they need to get right, business models are equally important - driving revenues from content delivery can help bvendors reach lower price points in a market that is incredibly price sensitive," he said.
"Currently HP is pursuing a Windows strategy for its tablet portfolio, producing enterprise-focused products such as the Slate 2, until the launch of Windows 8," continued Coulling.
"However, questions remain over Microsoft's entry to the consumer pad space. While early demonstrations of Windows 8 seem promising, Microsoft must focus its efforts on creating an intuitive user experience that is less resource intensive," he said.
One firm going down the tablet route is third-placed Lenovo, which incidentally was the only other top five player to increase its market share. According to Canalys, its decision to go with Android for its tablet range may give it a better shot at maintaining this initiative than firms such as second-placed HP
However, some of the big PC vendors are instead betting on the ultrabook form factor as a means to drive up waning interest in ntoebooks.
While Canalys expects limited uptake of ultrabooks for now, Acer - which placed fifth behind Dell in worldwide shipments - is confident it can make the concept stick, as UK managing director Neil Marshall recently told MicroScope.
"We think that 40% of notebooks volumes will be ultrabooks in 2012," said Marshall. "We reckon there's a place for tablets, but with ultrabooks getting thinner and lighter that will be the main focus for us, although that said we will still have a footprint in the tablet market."