In what could be construed as a sign of the times, research firm Canalys reports that Apple became the leading shipper of computers in the world last year, passing HP for the first time ever. Apple shipped 20 million computers in the last four months of 2011, while HP shipped a little over 15 million, according to PC World.

One caveat, however: Canalys counts tablet computers in its figures, and the majority of computers sold by Apple were iPads (15 million compared to 5 million Macs).

120 million computers (desktops, laptops, netbooks and tablets) were sold last year, 22 percent of which were tablets. Including tablets, year-over-year sales for computers jumped 16 percent. Take them out of the equation, however, and they declined .4 percent.

Now that's a sign of the times.

[via PC World]