Apple ties Gateway for third place in U.S. market share

IDC estimates it sold 960,000 systems in Q2

Apple Inc. has moved into a virtual tie for third place in U.S. computer sales, a research firm said this week, with Apple selling almost as many Macs as the still-declining Gateway Inc. sold PCs.

By IDC's estimates, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker sold 960,000 systems in the second quarter, a 26% increase over the same quarter last year. That pushed the company into a dead heat for third place in U.S. market share with Gateway; each accounted for 5.6% of all computers sold last quarter. During the three-month period, Gateway sold 965,000 systems, a 7% drop from the1.04 million machines it sold in the same quarter of 2006.

Holding firm at No. 1 and 2 were Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., which owned 28.4% and 23.6% of the U.S. market, respectively.

It's unlikely that Apple will be able to lock up third place all on its own anytime soon, stressed IDC analyst David Daoud. "Typically, the second half of the year is very consumer-oriented, and that will benefit Gateway," said Daoud. "It ought to do better in the second half" and hold on to third place.

Apple's year-to-year sales increase for the second quarter, however, was impressive, given that it posted a growth rate nearly four times the average of 7.2% by all vendors. Only Toshiba Corp., which held fifth place in U.S. market share, had a larger increase: 50%.

Educational institution sales contributed to Apple's good showing, said Daoud, who noted that K-12 buys begin in the latter part of the second quarter. Laptop sales lead the charge overall -- if not in educational purchases -- as they have for some time, for Apple as well as others. "Notebook sales have been a driving factor in increases," Daoud said.

All that said, Apple's future looks bright, he added. "We think Apple can continue to gain market share, especially now, with the halo effect from the iPhone," Daoud said. "And it has a huge opportunity where it traditionally hasn't had a large share: in the international and especially emerging markets. If, that is, the company decides to go more global than it is now."

Worldwide, Apple didn't show in the top five, said Daoud; instead, HP, Dell, Lenovo Group Ltd., Acer Inc. and Toshiba ruled that list. "Apple typically has 2.5% to 3% of the global market," said Daoud. Assuming Apple sold the same number of machines in the second quarter as in the first, it would finish behind Toshiba's 2.4 million units with its own 1.5 million.

Apple is scheduled to release its quarterly earnings and hold a conference call with analysts on Wednesday, July 25.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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