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Apple snags nearly 10% of US PC market in third quarter

With just days to go before Apple announces the results of its fourth fiscal quarter, new data from market research firm Gartner has the Mac maker snagging a near 10 percent share of the US PC market for the three month period ending September, with its unit shipments growing more than six times the industry average.

In predictions published on Tuesday, Gartner believes Apple will have shipped about 1.64 million Macs to Americans over the course of the summer and thus will have earned itself 9.5 percent of the market in its home territory, which saw about 17.4 million computers shipped in total.

The figure is a full percentage point up from spring numbers and 29.4 percent higher than Apple's market share in summer 2007 — more than double the growth rate of its closest rival, Acer, and nearly 6.4 times the industry average of a simple 4.6 percent.

These gains by the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics firm also extend its lead over those below it in the rankings and narrow the still-wide gap between itself and second-place HP.

Acer and Toshiba grew their shares by just 0.4 percent and 0.1 percent respectively between the spring and summer and now give Apple a more comfortable 0.6 percent edge. HP has a full 25.7 percent share but had only moved slightly from 25.3 percent in the spring.

Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 3Q08 (Thousands of Units) | Source: Gartner

Apple's gains come in spite of market forces working against it, Gartner says. The average selling price of a PC has continued to drop in part thanks to netbooks, which often sell for under $500 and accounted for as much as five percent of the US market; Apple hasn't involved itself in this arena. Moreover, this attempt to consciously lower prices isn't thought to have had the intended effect.

"Despite the back to school sales season, the U.S. home market did not see its typical seasonal spike during the quarter," Gartner analyst Mika Kitagawa says. "The continued decline of the average selling price... did not stimulate sales as much at the vendors had hoped."

MacBooks are seen as having largely bucked this trend by appealing to education and home users, which are currently less reactive to a weak market than businesses.

Worldwide, Apple again failed to place in the top five and still has significant room to grow before it can count among their ranks. Fifth-place Toshiba sits at 4.6 percent, or nearly 3.7 million units, of all PCs leaving factories this past summer.

Q3 Worldwide PC results
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 3Q08 (Thousands of Units) | Source: Gartner

Almost 80.6 million PCs are estimated to have shipped from all companies during the three-month period and were led by American powerhouses HP and Dell, which took 18.4 percent (14.8 million PCs) and 13.6 percent (11 million PCs) of the market each. Acer and Lenovo occupy third and fourth on the world stage.

It was regions beyond North America that led the computer industry, according to Gartner, with Africa, Europe and the Middle East spurring the bulk of growth. Asia/Pacific, which is home to all the non-American companies in the world list, was hit by sluggish performance in China.