NPD: Apple enjoys huge Mac growth in February

Mac shipments through U.S. retail channels were up 60 percent compared with February 2007, outpacing the growth of the overall market by leaps and bounds.

Mac shipments were up dramatically in the fourth quarter of last year, and if recent NPD data is any indication, Apple's doing pretty well again this quarter.

AppleInsider spotted a research note from Pacific Crest Securities citing NPD Group data that Apple's Mac shipments grew 60 percent in February compared with the same period last year, while the entire market grew just 9 percent. NPD's data tracks computer purchases made at U.S. retail stores, which means it excludes much of Dell and all online purchases in general, but it does serve as a weather vane for the PC industry.

Shipments of Macs, like this new MacBook Pro, were up 60 percent in February, according to NPD. Apple

Notebooks were the primary source of Apple's strength, according to the data, with shipments up 64 percent compared with a 20 percent gain for the overall market. But the difference between Apple's desktop shipments and the industry is stark: iMac and Mac Pro shipments were up 55 percent compared with last year, while industry desktop shipments declined 5 percent.

Amid all the economic concern of the past few months, this is good news for Apple, as strong Mac growth might be enough to offset worries about the iPod division. Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray issued a note Monday that Apple's iPod shipments are tracking below expectations right now, meaning if the trends hold Apple would see a year-on-year decline in iPod shipments for the first time in an awfully long time. Munster thinks the iPod Shuffle price cut will have stimulated demand by the time the final numbers are out, but that situation bears watching.

Mac sales grew by 44 percent in the fourth quarter, Apple reported in January. February marked the first full month of availability for the MacBook Air, and Apple added new chips and new trackpad features to the MacBook Pro and MacBook in late February.

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