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Wednesday, April 27, 2005, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Apple grabs 3.6% PC market share in March quarter

Apple grabbed 3.6% of total U.S.-based PC shipments in the March quarter, up a full percentage point from the 2.6% obtained by the Mac maker during the year-ago quarter, Merrill Lynch said today.

In a research report released to clients and obtained by AppleInsider, analyst Steve Milunovich said the latest market share figures represent "solid evidence of the halo effect."

Echoing rumors on the Mac web, the analyst said he expects the company to roll out new iMac and eMac systems in order to take advantage of the recent hype surrounding Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger."

Milunovich also commented on today's announcement of new Power Mac G5 systems, noting that while pricing of the models remains unchanged, "buyers get more bang for the buck." Still, he believes that consumers new to Apple will opt for lower-cost machines such as the iMac and Mac mini.

"The Power Mac G5 constituted almost 22% of Apple’s computer shipments in F2004," Milunovich wrote in the report. "We suspect this share could decline through 2005 as the iMac G5 and Mac mini are directed to the casual user whereas the Power Mac is better suited for professionals."

His firm believes the price drop on Apple Cinema Displays will ease the burden for professionals who prefer to work with dual monitors.

Merrill Lynch reiterated its "Buy" rating on Apple stock with a price objective of $51 per share. "The stock broke its 50-day moving average, which caused short-term underperformance," the firm said. "But in a growth sector lacking growth, we think investors should be attracted to Apple."