Figures from market research firm Canalys show Apple to be the third largest PC vendor in the world.

Apple had a 10.8 percent share of the PC market in Q4 2010, when it made 11.5 million shipments the figures show, up from 3.8 percent in Q4 2009, with 3.4 million units shifted - equating to growth of 241 percent.

Apple's placing - behind HP and Acer but ahead of Dell and Lenovo - is thanks to strong iPad and Mac sales and fast growth in the Asia-Pacific region, Canalys said.

Canalys senior analyst Daryl Chiam defended the inclusion of tablets - which it refers to as 'pads' - in the figures. "Any argument that a pad is not a PC is simply out of sync. 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.

"They compete for the same customers and will happily coexist. As with smart phones, some users will require a physical keyboard, while others will do without. Each new product category typically causes a significant shift in market shares. Apple is benefiting from pads, just as Acer, Samsung and Asus previously did with netbooks. The PC industry has always evolved this way, starting when Toshiba and Compaq rode high on the original notebook wave," he continued.

Overall the PC industry grew by 19 percent in Q4 2010, which Canalys attributed largely to the growth of the tablet sector. HP was the top vendor, with a share of 17.7 percent having shifted 18.7 million units. Acer was second having sold 13.6 million PCs and taking a 12.8 percent share.

The emergence of Windows 7 was also credited with accelerating growth in the PC market, as were strong sales in Asia, particularly India and China. However, Canalys warned that the UK market would suffer after the recent rise in VAT.