Consumers picking up tablet computers, or pads, during the holiday season boosted the personal computer market 19.2 percent in the fourth quarter, research firm Canalys said on Wednesday.

Hewlett-Packard Co and Acer Inc <2353.TW> continued to lead the global market, while strong sales of the iPad lifted Apple Inc to No. 3 ranking globally on the basis of number of machines sold, Canalys said.

Dell Inc fell to fourth place and Lenovo Group Ltd <0992.HK> to fifth.

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, analyst Daryl Chiam said in a statement.

The PC industry has always evolved this way, starting when Toshiba and Compaq rode high on the original notebook wave.

Other research firms, including Gartner and IDC, have said PC market growth slowed at the end of 2010 to around 3 percent, but they have so far excluded the emerging tablet market from their PC forecasts.

Any argument that a pad is not a PC is simply out of sync, Chiam said. 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.

(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by David Holmes)