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Apple Ties For Third In U.S. PC Market

Apple was neck and neck with Gateway, lagging behind No. 1 Dell and No. 2 Hewlett-Packard, according to market researchers IDC.

Apple in the second quarter was apparently the third-largest PC maker in the United States in terms of shipments, tying Gateway, market researchers IDC said Thursday.

Apple's third-place crown was not final, given that Apple does not release sales numbers for the Mac until it releases earnings. "Apple, of all the PC vendors, hasn't shared estimates, so it's our best guest without the numbers," IDC analyst David Daoud said in an interview.

Apple didn't make the top five in worldwide PC shipments, but in its home turf in the United States, the company boosted Mac sales year over year by 26.2% to 960,000 units, IDC estimates. Apple's share of the U.S. market rose to 5.6% from 4.8%, or 760,000 units, a year ago.

Gateway sold about 5,000 more PCs than Apple, but the higher number wasn't significant enough to affect the share percentage. Gateway and Dell were the only two vendors to show a decline in shipments in the United States, dropping 7.1% and 10.7%, respectively.

The second and third quarters are seasonally strong for Apple, Daoud said. That's because the company does well in the education market. During the second quarter, schools are buying equipment for the following year, and the third quarter is the back-to-school buying season.

Apple's gains, however, are real, and it's in a good position to topple Gateway from the third-place spot, Daoud said. An effective Apple mass-marketing campaign is driving sales, highlighted by the "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads. Apple also gains momentum because of the success of the iPod media player and recently released iPhone.

"The iPhone is brand new and definitely part of the halo effect," Daoud said. "Before it was the iPod. Now the iPhone is looking to take over."

In addition, Apple is benefiting from the failure of Microsoft's Windows Vista to spur much of an increase in PC sales. That's because support for software and hardware, such as digital cameras, camcorders and printers, still lags on Vista. "As a result, consumers are just not excited yet," Daoud said.

Worldwide PC shipments increased 12.5% in the second quarter year over year to 58.8 million units, according to IDC. Hewlett-Packard continued to lead, increasing shipments by 35.5% to take a 19.3% share of the market. Dell remained firmly in second place with a 16.1% share, but shipped 4.9% fewer units.

While HP showed strong growth in the United States, and even stronger growth overseas, Dell suffered declines as it continued to reorganize its business to adapt to changing market conditions. "Dell is going through a major transition, so you would expect them to go through a difficult time before there's recovery," Daoud said.

IDC, however, believes Dell in the long term is not in danger of losing its current standing and will recover, given its brand recognition, skill, and mind share among consumers and businesses. "We'll see the comeback of Dell at some point," Daoud said. "The million-dollar question is when."

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