Apple now sells 1 in 12 US computers

Gartner says Apple's growth rate is eight times the industry average

Apple's share of the U.S. computer market climbed again last quarter, two research firms said today, and the company now has a solid lock on third place behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Both Gartner and IDC put Apple in the third spot for U.S. shipments, with 1.34 million machines sold for Dell and 1.13 million for HP. Rounding out the top five in the U.S. were Toshiba and Gateway.

Although Apple's system sales paled compared to Dell's numbers -- Dell shipped between 4.83 million and 5.01 million PCs in the U.S. -- or HP's figures, Apple's year-to-year growth rate ranged from 15.9 percent to 37.2 percent. That's a far cry from the decline of Dell and the more modest increases posted by HP.

Gartner pegged Apple's U.S. market share at 8.1 percent, while IDC, which posted more conservative Apple numbers across the board, put its third-quarter share at 6.3 percent. The prior quarter, IDC had Apple at 5.3 percent of the U.S. market. Since the first of the year, the research company's data showed that Apple has grown its piece of the pie by 1.6 percentage points.

While Gartner's and IDC's numbers for Apple differed wildly, their figures pointed out that Apple's year-to-year growth rate remained significantly higher than the PC industry average. Gartner, for example, said that Apple's growth was nearly eight times the average during the quarter, while IDC put it at just over three times greater than the average.

In global sales statistics, however, Apple is but a blip, with its numbers buried in the "Others" category by both research firms. Worldwide, for example, No. 1 HP sold between 12.8 million and 13.1 million machines during the quarter; second-place Dell, between 9.9 million and 10.2 million PCs globally.

Apple will release definitive sales figures next week, when it holds its fiscal fourth-quarter conference call with Wall Street analysts.

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