Research firm Canalys on Monday said it expects Apple to overtake Hewlett-Packard to become the world’s leading PC maker before the second half of 2012. That is, if you count tablets as computers (many people don’t). The launch of iPad 3 early next year is predicted to boost Apple’s share of the global PC market. Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling:

Apple has seen its PC market share expand from 9 percent to 15 percent in just four quarters, though iPad shipments in its core market – the United States – are likely to come under pressure in Q4 due to the launch of the Fire and Nook at extremely competitive price points.

Charlie Wolf of Needham and Co last week said the Mac passed the magic five percent global market share. Canalys’ data includes computer and tablet sales. Earlier this month Canalys pegged Apple’s share of the global PC market at 15 percent, right behind the #1 HP with 16 percent share. CAnalys predicts that 2011 PC sales will grow 15 percent to hit 415 million units, of which 211 million should be notebook units where Apple absolutely dominates.

Ultrabooks? “For Ultrabooks to become widespread, prices have to drop considerably”, Canalys said. As for other tablets, DigiTimes expects high inventory levels of non-Apple tablets following the holiday season. This is partly due to the launch of the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet  which undercut other Android tablets, meaning “several waves of price cuts are expected in the new year”. Meanwhile, white box tablets, which dropped below $100, are not expected to affect iPad sales.

Apple is expected to quadruple its share of the computer market in China. The company has also seen big gains in Western Europe and Forrester is now recommending Macs in enterprise. Apple recently bumped up MacBook Pro specs and is believed to be readying a redesigned ultrathin 15-inch MacBook Pro for a 2012 launch. Asian sources are calling for a thinner iPad in March 2012 with possibly another model slated for late-2012 introduction.

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