Apple now third-largest PC seller in U.S.

The quarterly study from IDC shows that Apple shipped 10.6 percent of computers in the U.S. during the third quarter--and grew eight times faster than the competition.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
3 min read
Macs now have their highest share of the PC market ever, according to IDC. CNET\Sarah Tew

U.S. computer sales were pretty disappointing during the past three months, unless you're talking about Macs.

According to the Quarterly PC Tracker Survey released by IDC today, Apple shipped 1.99 million Macs in the U.S. during the third quarter of 2010. That's good for 10.6 percent of the 18.9 million PCs shipped in the U.S., putting Apple's share at its highest in the U.S. in the company's history, according to IDC.

While that's still far behind Hewlett-Packard's 24.3 percent share and Dell's 23.1 percent share, both of those companies' shipments remained relatively static over the last year. Apple saw its shipments grow 24 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

And it's not just the sales growth of HP and Dell it's besting: the entire U.S. PC market during the third quarter grew just 3.8 percent from a year ago (even though it was forecast at 11 percent), meaning Apple shipments of Macs grew at eight times the rate of everyone else. It's fairly remarkable considering the lingering weakness in the economy and the company's computers having been saddled with the "too expensive" label--whether accurate or not.

So why is Apple doing so well selling computers now? IDC analyst David Daoud says the iPad may actually be one of the reasons.

"It is very possible that the iPad's marketing right now is impacting [Apple's Mac] business as a halo effect, just like we saw several years ago with the iPod," he said. "The momentum went on with the iPhone, now it appears the iPad is playing a similar role, stimulating sales across its product line."

Apple sold more than 3 million iPads between April and June, and it's very likely we'll get an updated number for sales over the last three months when Apple reports its quarterly earnings results on Monday. What is interesting is the suggestion that the iPad is not taking away sales of Macs, but helping them. Unlike the iPod which has a completely different use case than a Mac, there's been discussion over whether the iPad can in some instances replace a notebook computer.

Best Buy's CEO was quoted last month saying that the iPad had cut into notebook sales by as much as 50 percent. Though he later backed off that statement, he only said the 50 percent figure was a "gross exaggeration." He didn't say there wasn't any cannibalization effect.

Either way, it's good news for the Mac business, which doesn't get nearly the attention it used to, with the iPhone and iPad raking in huge amounts of revenue for the company, and the clear trend in the industry toward highly mobile devices. But we know for sure that next week we'll hear more about the Mac and Mac OS X, when Apple holds a special event at its headquarters to talk about hardware and the next version of the Mac operating system. Here's what CNET expects we might see on the Mac front.

Though overall consumer sales weren't so hot, enterprise computer sellers did a decent business during the third quarter, IDC says. Lenovo, which sells heavily to large businesses, grew 32.9 percent in its worldwide sales. The long-awaited "commercial refresh"--the cycle of companies replacing employee computers and IT equipment en masse--continued on schedule.

Perennial worldwide market leader HP saw little change in volume, claiming 17.7 percent of the 89.3 million computers shipped in the third quarter. Acer reclaimed its No. 2 spot with 13 percent of shipments, Dell dropped backed to third place with 12.5 percent, Lenovo claimed 10.3 percent of shipments, and newcomer Asus stayed firmly in the top five with 5.4 percent of shipments.

Gartner released its market share results today as well, and saw similar numbers: HP with 17.5 percent of shipments worldwide, Acer 13.1, Dell 12.2, Lenovo 10.4, and Asus with 5.4 percent.