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Apple's Mac sales rock-steady in Q1 despite Vista launch

Apple Inc. had little to quarrel about with the latest figures from Gartner, which showed the Mac maker standing firm against a tidal wave of Windows PC sales triggered by Vista. For the first quarter of 2007, Mac unit shipments were up some 30 percent.

Research firm Gartner published a preliminary report on Wednesday saying that rapid Vista sales scarcely made a dent in Apple's marketshare during the first quarter of the year, declining only a tenth of a point to reach an even 5 percent of US computer shipments by the end of March.

Sales for other computer designers fell almost perfectly in line with fourth quarter results, with Toshiba edging out Apple for fourth place at 5.4 percent and Gateway claiming the third spot with 7.7. The most surprising change for Windows PC shipments was a narrowing of the gap between top-ranked Dell and close opponent HP as the latter's success with Vista took away from its struggling rival.

Though potentially dampening the hopes of those who would expect Apple's newfound success to translate to a larger piece of the market, the statistic reinforced Morgan Stanley's notion that the Calfornia system builder had weathered the storm both before and after Vista's release. Mac shipments grew at a steady 30 percent year-over-year to 741,000 in the US alone, the report said, which created a buffer for the company.

Better still for Apple was news that the surge in PC shipments could be just a momentary spike — both at home and abroad — rather than the start of a larger trend.

"Microsoft’s official consumer launch of Vista in January, [sic] had very limited impact on overall worldwide shipment demand on a quarterly basis," Gartner wrote. "On a monthly basis, mature regions experienced a bubble in demand following its release. Vista adoption was primarily in the consumer and very small business segments of the mature regions."

Nonetheless, the charts illustrated the challenge of breaking into the upper ranks of computer sales for the primarily US-driven Apple, which yet again was left out of the top five system vendors after southeast Asian strongholds Acer, Lenovo, and Toshiba occupied spots three through five.

US vendor PC shipments (estimated) Q1 2007

This could be due to a surprising shift in power, according to the researchers. Although the US market fared better than southeast Asia in sales, a shift in power during the first quarter gave the upper hand to Eastern territories — where homegrown manufacturers often take precedence over American opponents.

"The Asia/Pacific region surpassed the U.S. PC market to take the No. 2 position in terms of shipments for the first time," Gartner was careful to note.