Apple jumped into the third spot in US sales for the third quarter, in part because of the "halo" effect from its iPad tablet, industry research firm IDC said today.
Even though rival Gartner had Apple in the No. 4 position, slightly behind a plummeting Acer, it also 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 two million Mac desktops and laptops during the third quarter to snare 10.6 percent of the US market, slipping past Acer by 50,000 units into the No. 3 spot.
Apple's sales for the third quarter were 24.1 percent higher than the same quarter last year, added IDC, easily beating the computer industry average of just 3.8 percent .
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 line-up 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 in the US, putting the company in fourth place behind Acer, which sold 1.84 million units. Apple's Mac sales were 13.7 percent higher than the same quarter in 2009, and by Gartner's estimate crept close to Acer because the latter sold 21 percent fewer machines than 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 percent over last year.
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, she added. "Apple usually has a really strong third quarter," Kitagawa 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 reveals its third quarter earnings.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
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