Apple market share rises, but growth rate lags

Riding recent news of its second profitable quarter, Apple Computer's market share has risen back to the same level it was at a year ago, according to International Data (IDC). IDC pegged Apple's market share for the first quarter of 1998 at 4%, based on sales of 319,000 desktop and portable CPUs. The number was up from the fourth quarter of 1997, when Apple sales accounted for 3.4%. Although the news drew cheers from the ever-loyal Mac community, analysts say Apple still needs to increase its user base to become more viable.

Riding recent news of its second profitable quarter, Apple Computer's market share has risen back to the same level it was at a year ago, according to International Data (IDC).

In other news, the company is also poised to ship a new build-to-order version of its G3 PowerBook line within the next two weeks, according to sources close to the company.

IDC pegged Apple's market share for the first quarter of 1998 at 4%, based on sales of 319,000 desktop and portable CPUs. The number was up from the fourth quarter of 1997, when Apple sales accounted for 3.4%.

Although the news drew cheers from the ever-loyal Mac community, analysts say Apple still needs to increase its user base to become more viable.

"While Apple can continue staying alive and profitable serving the needs of their existing customer base, they're never going to grow the company again until they can bring in new users," says Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, in San Jose, California. "And, as of today, I don't know where they're going to be coming from."

Bajarin says an upcoming consumer line, details of which are still under wraps at Apple, might be a way to increase the user base.

Another analyst said that although Apple's growth rate showed that Apple as a company was becoming more stable, it was lagging behind the industry.

"Apple's growth rate was considerably slower than the industry growth rate of 14%," said James Staten, an analyst at Dataquest, in San Jose, California.

Staten said the new PowerBook G3 line is "very compelling," but did warn that Apple is no longer the laptop leader it once was, and that Wintel laptops have caught up in terms of performance.

"It's not the Holy Grail the PowerBook once was for Apple," Staten says, citing that the prices on the Apple laptops "still aren't down where they should be."

Apple would not comment on the expected PowerBook announcement but has previously noted this will be the first notebook built specifically for the G3 chip, with one consistent design across the entire line, and Apple's build-to-order delivery mechanism.

According to one Apple reseller, the new PowerBooks will ship with G3 chips at 292MHz, 250MHz, and 233MHz. Screen sizes can be selected from 12.1 inches, 13.3 inches, and 14.1 inches, and prices will range from $US2,299 to $5,599.

Apple in Cupertino, California is at http://www.apple.com/.

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