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Apple's Mac now 13% of US market as iPad snags dollars away from PCs

Apple experienced the strongest growth among the top five vendors in the U.S. PC market last quarter with shipments rising 21% on a yearly basis to garner the Mac maker a near 13% share. At the same time, the nation's obsession with the iPad took spending dollars away from PCs.

Market research firm Gartner said Wednesday that its preliminary data suggests Apple sold a record 2,300,000 systems in the U.S. alone during the three month period ending Sept. 30th, boosting its slice of the market from 10.8% to 12.9% on a year-over-year basis.

"Apple's PC shipments increased 21.5 percent in the third quarter of 2011," said analyst Mikako Kitagawa. "The robust growth of the MacBook Air continued to lead Apple's overall growth in the U.S. market."

HP, which is rumored to be plotting an exit from the PC business, continued to the lead pack, shipping an estimated 5,132,614 systems, a 15% increase that gave it a 28.9% share. On the other hand, second place Dell saw sales decline 7% to 3,886,864 with a 21.9% share as it faced intensified competition in the professional space.

Behind Apple in fourth place and an 8.4% share is Toshiba, whose sales are estimated to have slipped about 4% to 1,486,100 units. Meanwhile, Acer's slide down the charts continued, as the netbook maker saw sales decline more than 25% to just 1,378,768 units and a 7.8% slice of the market.

"Acer mostly cleared its inventory buildup in the EMEA region by the third quarter of 2011" Kitagawa said. "However, channels have been adopting a conservative position in regard to placing orders following the inventory issues."

Overall, Gartner said U.S. PC shipments totaled 17.8 million units in the third quarter of 2011, a 1.1 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010. It was the first time that the US market experienced year-over-year growth since last year.

"The main contributor to the weak consumer PC market in the U.S. was intensified competition for consumers' money," Kitagawa said. "Media tablets and smartphones took center stage in the U.S. retail sector, and the expectation is for continuing demand for these devices throughout the holiday season."

On a global scale, worldwide PC shipments totaled 91.8 million units — a 3.2 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010. Those figures are slightly lower than Gartner's expectations of 5.1 percent growth.

 Q3 results

"The inventory buildup, which slowed growth the last four quarters, mostly cleared out during the third quarter of this year; however, the PC industry has been performing below normal seasonality," Kitagawa said. "As expected, back-to-school PC sales were disappointing in mature markets, confirming that the consumer PC market continues to be weak."

She added that the popularity of non-PC devices, including media tablets such as Apple's iPad "took consumers' spending away from PCs."