The iPad Makes Apple The Top Seller Of Mobile Computers, So It Can Do Whatever It Wants

With all of the debate about whether or not Apple will prevail with its new subscription pricing for media apps on the iPad and iPhone, it is helpful to keep one thing in mind: nobody else yet comes close to selling as many tablet computers as Apple. In fact, if you count the iPad as a mobile computer, in the fourth quarter Apple passed HP as the biggest manufacturer of mobile computers measured by products shipped. According to NPD’s DisplaySearch, Apple shipped 10.2 million laptops and iPads in the quarter, giving it a 17.2 percent share of the mobile computing market compared to HP’s 15.6 percent share. (Acer, Dell, and Toshiba filled in the remaining spots in the top five).

Now remember that Apple shipped 7.3 million iPads last quarter, up from 3 million the quarter before. So it’s new position atop the mobile computing heap comes directly from the popularity of the iPad. (You could argue it doesn’t belong in the same category as laptops, but it is mobile and it is a computer).

Given this sheer dominance, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Apple feels emboldened to dictate pricing terms which it may not have gotten away with at the iPad’s launch. Publishers and other subscription media services who are balking at handing over 30 percent of their subscription fees to Apple in perpetuity might want to consider the alternative—missing out on one of the fastest-growing computing devices of all time.

For a refresher, let’s revisit Mary Meeker’s excellent slide comparing the first three months of the iPad to the iPhone and iPod