New iMac lifts Apple's market position

The company is one of only a handful of computer makers to eke out growth anywhere in the shrinking market, according to research firm IDC.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
Apple Computer saw its worldwide and U.S. market position inch up during the first quarter of 2001, thanks to sales of its new iMac.

Market researcher IDC, which recently wrapped up its preliminary first-quarter market numbers, said the Mac maker's unit sales were up 5.4 percent on a worldwide basis for the quarter, both sequentially and in year-over-year figures.

The new numbers, which IDC attributes to strong unit sales of Apple's new flat-panel iMac, show Apple shipped about 809,000 units, moving it up from the No. 10 spot worldwide in the first quarter of 2001 to the No. 9 spot in a near tie with Acer this past quarter. The new flat-panel iMac was introduced Jan. 7.

Apple is one of only a handful of companies to eke out growth anywhere in the shrinking market. Dell Computer saw the biggest jump. Shipping 4.8 million units, Dell saw year-over-year growth of 16 percent. Overall, the 31.4 million unit market declined by 2.7 percent.

Apple's unit sales also grew in its largest market, the United States. Here, its sales increased 6.7 percent from the same quarter last year, and 6.9 percent sequentially to 387,000 units, IDC said. The company's U.S. market position rose to 3.7 from 3.4 percent a year ago. Apple's share, though, is smaller than what it was a few years ago.

However, other PC makers fared better in the United States for the first quarter. Dell grew 19 percent to just over 3 million units; IBM grew 2 percent to 577,000 units; and Hewlett-Packard remained steady with 1.1 million units sold.

IDC said it was the new iMac that lifted Apple's unit sales, especially its sequential figures--despite the long time it took sometimes for many people initially to receive orders and the potential for a negative hit from a $100 price increase.

"What we saw was that desktops had the biggest (sales) impact sequentially, but that on a year-over-year basis it was basically the reverse," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's PC Tracker.

Though the new iMac has only been out for a few months, Apple has already declared it a success.

"We've clearly got a winner here," CEO Steve Jobs said in its first-quarter earnings report.

The iMac sales bode well for Apple, Loverde said, because its strongest quarters have traditionally been the second and third.

The company held 4.5 percent of the U.S. market in the second quarter of 2001, for example, and 4.6 percent in the third quarter, according to IDC.

However, comparing Apple's most recent unit sales and market position numbers to the same data historically, Apple's market share appears to be shrinking slowly over time. For example, Apple held about 4.1 percent of the U.S. market in 1997 and 6.7 percent in 1996, according to Gartner.