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Mac sales on the rise

First Motorola brought legitimacy to Mac clones. Now the Mac OS platform is on the rise in the U.S. market--slightly.

There is a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon for the Macintosh platform: Sales of clones are boosting market share as Motorola (MOT) validates the clone market.

Market share for the Macintosh operating system platform in the United States is on the rise, according to new research released today by Computer Intelligence (CI).

"Motorola has done for the Mac OS market what Compaq did for the Intel x86 market," said Matt Sargent, a CI industry analyst. One company with name recognition produces a product, "then everyone jumps on the bandwagon. It gives the business market a sense that they are buying a brand name. If Motorola is in this, then there is some stability."

Stability yes, but clone vendor Power Computing says Motorola is only occupying part of the market.

"Clearly the Motorola name legitimizes momentum and growth in the retail market, but Power Computing is pushing the direct market and that represents incremental channel growth," said marketing manager Mike Rosenfelt.

He added that as more players enter the clone marketplace, it will become a more competitive field. Big-name companies like Motorola draw attention to potential customers and that attracts more people to the platform.

"Competition and choice is brand new to the Mac platform, and those are the things that drove the Intel business," CI's Sargent said.

Market share for the Mac OS platform was pushed to 11 percent in January, marking the second consecutive month its slice of the pie has grown larger.

The Mac OS market share reached nine percent in December, up from eight percent the previous month.

Meanwhile, market share for the Intel x86 operating system platform was on the slide, though it still rules the industry. In January, its market share slipped to 89 percent, continuing a decline from December's 91 percent, which was down from 92 percent in the previous month.

"Thanks to Mac OS clones, the Mac platform is anything but dead in the dealer channel," said Sargent. "Our figures show that the Mac OS platform actually took market share away from the x86 platform in January in this channel."

But the Mac platform does not have Apple Computer (AAPL) to thank for the boost.

Sargent explained that if you separated the numbers to show the Apple operating-system market in comparison to the clone market share, Apple is on the decline.

Sargent said that he could not forecast future results, but said, "You never know where the market will grow, but it seems that there is momentum [in the clone market]."

The Mac OS platform gained market share in the dealer channel from January 1996 to January 1997, with a growth rate of 61.4 percent, compared with the x86 platform's loss of 5.1 percent and overall PCs' loss of less than one percent.

The figures are based on sales of desktop systems through traditional computer vendors such as Entex, Inacom, and MicroAge and are compiled by CI's StoreBoard, a service that tracks monthly sales of PC hardware, software, and peripherals from over 1,100 dealers and retail stores in the United States.

"Despite the 'common wisdom' that the Wintel platform is growing faster than the Macintosh platform, we found the situation to be exactly opposite in the dealer channel this month," said Dave Tremblay, a senior industry analyst at CI, in a statement.

"It's like the chicken and the egg: There has to be a market in place to create demand," said Power Computing's Rosenfelt.

CI researches computer and communications industry trends, product developments, and buyer activity.