Apple Inc. just can't lose. After becoming one of the most valuable companies in the world (the market cap is currently at $425.61 billion), Apple followed up by becoming the top PC maker in the world. The achievement is a testament to the company's innovative products that consistently woo its rabid fan base.

During the fourth quarter of 2011, Apple shipped 15 million iPads and 5 million Mac computers, according to research from Canalys. The sale of 20 million units gave the company 17 percent market share of the PC industry.

Fourth-quarter sales were enough to push the company ahead of Hewlett-Packard, whose tablet division failed spectacularly, dropping their market share to 12.7 percent. Slightly behind was China-based computer maker Lenovo with 11.2 percent, American-based Dell computers with 9.9 percent and Taiwan-based Acer with 9.3 percent.

Canalys says that notebook sales were stagnant compared to booming tablet sales. Here's what they wrote in the research report:

Pads accounted for 22% of total PC shipments during Q4 2011. In addition to Apple's strong performance, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet by Barnes and Noble boosted volumes in the U.S. market, allowing both vendors to claim spots among the top five worldwide pad makers, in second and fifth place respectively.

All regions grew year-on-year with the inclusion of pads. Excluding pads, however, shipments in Europe, Middle East and Africa and North America declined, due to weaker consumer demand in Western Europe and the United States, despite the traditional Q4 sales periods. Vendors and channel partners took a cautious approach to inventory levels in Q4, as many had expected a slow quarter. Notebook volumes grew slightly, at approximately 1% in these regions, but continued their impressive rise in Asia Pacific and Latin America, as more consumers embraced mobile computing.

The Shifting Tide

Apple announced Tuesday that John Browett, the chief executive officer of Dixons Retail PLC from 2007 to 2012, will be its new senior vice president of retail operations starting in April.

Browett will assume his new role at Apple as the company tries to add more stores around the world.

Apple hired Egon Zehnder International, an executive search firm, to help with the appointment according to the Wall Street Journal. It's one of the few instances in which the company has sought talent outside of Cupertino, Calif., where the company is headquartered.

Dixons, one of the largest consumer electronics retailers in Europe, took a hit after Apple made the announcement: Dixons' shares fell 13 percent Tuesday despite having risen more than 40 percent since the beginning of the year.

Selling Apple products was imperative to Dixons' success in the recession according to the New York Times. Here's what they wrote:

Among his many successes, Mr. Browett landed a deal for Dixons to sell Apple's first iPad several weeks before his British rivals did and had Apple employees demonstrating the tablet in Dixons' stores. A subsequent Dixons advertising campaign featured the Apple logo in the background. Dixons became the largest seller of Apple products in Britain apart from Apple stores.

Browett will be running the operations of a much different retail chain than his previous job. As the Los Angeles Times points out, Browett will move from running a chain of 1,200 stores to a network of smaller storefronts that sell fewer products.

Despite the difference, chief executive officer of Apple Tim Cook isn't worried: Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we've met, Cook said in a statement.

As Apple tries to hold its position as the world's top PC maker, Browett will work to expand retail operations worldwide. Though the success of the company will be largely dependent on whether the iPad 3 lives up to the hype, it will also be dependent on Browett's ability to unveil and sustain new storefronts.