Mac sales outpaced industry average in 2007

Mac sales outpaced industry average in 2007

Apple shipped 28 percent more computers during the fourth quarter of 2007 than it did the during same period in 2006, a research firm said Wednesday. But that didn't prevent the company from slipping a spot in U.S. market-share rankings.

According to Gartner Inc., Apple shipped 1.04 million machines in the last three months of 2007, compared with 808,000 in the same quarter a year earlier. The sales surge, however, wasn't enough to keep Apple from falling a notch, to fourth place, in US sales. In the previous quarter, Apple held the third position in the U.S. market.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Apple and Toshiba America took the top five spots in the US during the important holiday selling season of October through December, said Gartner. Dell, for instance, shipped an estimated 5.35 million systems in the quarter, for a 31.4 percent share, while HP shipped 4.44 million machines to grab 26.1 percent of the market. Apple's fourth-quarter numbers gave it a 6.1 percent share.

Rival research firm IDC, which released its fourth-quarter 2007 estimates Wednesday as well, also ranked Apple fourth in the U.S. market but put Apple's shipments at 1.06 million Macs, for a 5.7 percent market share and a 30.9 percent increase over Mac shipments in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Apple had held the third-place spot in the third-quarter U.S. rankings released by Gartner and IDC last October. That quarter, which accounts for July, August and September, is traditionally a strong stretch for Mac sales because it's the peak of the back-to-school selling season.

Also playing a part in Apple's demotion was Acer's acquisition of Gateway, a deal that was announced in August and finalised in October. The research firms' fourth-quarter estimates were the first to combine shipment estimates of Acer with those of Gateway, which had been a top-five US. seller.

Both Gartner's and IDC's estimates, however, indicated that Apple's year-to-year growth continued to beat the industry average by a wide margin. While Gartner said shipments in the US grew by 7.2 percent overall, it pegged Apple's year-over-year increase at 28 percent. IDC, meanwhile, calculated the industry average growth rate at 8.8 percent and Apple's at 30.9 percent.

As is usual, Apple didn't rate a mention in either Gartner's or IDC's global PC shipment statistics. Worldwide, HP was ranked as the leader by both research companies, shipping an estimated 14.41 million machines (Gartner) or 14.7 million (IDC) during 2007's final three months. Apple's shipments were buried among the 34.47 million classified as "others" by Gartner, or the 35.12 million labeled the same by IDC.

Apple will release definitive sales figures on Tuesday, when it holds its quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts.

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