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Apple's Mac retakes third place in U.S. sales on back of iPad

IDC, Gartner credit halo effect for boosting desktop, laptop Mac sales

October 14, 2010 03:27 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple jumped into the third spot in U.S. personal computer sales for the third quarter, in part because of the "halo" effect from its iPad tablet, industry research firm IDC said today.

Rival research firm Gartner had Apple in the No. 4 position, slightly behind a plummeting Acer, but it too credited the halo effect for Apple's surging Mac sales.

"Apple's seen a lot of benefit from the iPad," said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa, citing the additional traffic in Apple's retail stores as a boon for the company's Mac sales.

According to IDC, Apple sold 2 million Mac desktops and laptops during the third quarter to snare 10.6% of the U.S. market, slipping past Acer by 50,000 units into the No. 3 spot.

Apple's sales for the third quarter were 24.1% higher than they were in the same quarter last year, added IDC. That easily beats the computer industry average of just 3.8%.

IDC research manager David Daoud also credited the iPad for Apple's success, saying that while the tablet convinced many consumers to buy a Mac, it cannibalized sales of netbooks and some notebooks, depressing sales of vendors such as Acer, which relies heavily on those models.

"Consumers are looking for something more than the standard computer," said Daoud, giving a nod to Apple's ecosystem and reputation for high-quality, if high-priced, hardware. "Apple has the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, iTunes and Mac," he noted. "If you don't have a comprehensive lineup like that, you're in trouble."

Others have pointed to the iPad for bringing customers into Apple's stores, and convincing them to go Mac. In May, ChangeWave Research claimed that the iPad was responsible for a four-point jump in Mac buying plans by U.S. consumers, the biggest increase in the last three years. "The iPad has a halo effect on the Mac because of all the surrounding publicity about the iPad and the additional floor traffic at Apple's stores," ChangeWave research director Paul Carton said at the time.

Gartner's Apple numbers for the quarter were slightly lower than IDC's, with projected Mac sales of 1.83 million units in the U.S., putting the company in fourth place behind Acer, with 1.84 million units sold. By Gartner's estimate, Apple's Mac sales were 13.7% higher than they were in the same quarter in 2009 and crept close to Acer's sales levels because the latter sold 21% fewer machines than it did in the same period a year ago.

"Slow netbook and notebook sales hurt Acer," said Kitagawa.

IDC had Acer selling 1.95 million systems in the quarter, an increase of 0.1% over the same period a year earlier.

Apple benefited, as it usually does, from back-to-school sales during the quarter, and from a refresh of its iMac desktop line in July, Kitagawa added. "Apple usually has a really strong third quarter," she said.

Mac sales could climb even higher in 2010's final quarter, said both Daoud and Kitagawa, if Apple refreshes more of its computer lines next week, when it will host an event on its California campus to give a sneak peak of the next version of its Mac OS X, likely named "Lion."

"I wouldn't be surprised if they refreshed some lines before the Christmas season," said Kitagawa.

Apple will release its official Mac sales figures next Monday, Oct. 18, when it releases its third-quarter financial report.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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