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Software sales rise 28%

North American software sales are anything but soft: Quarterly figures for PC applications reach $3.4 billion, up 28 percent from last year.

The North American software sector was anything but soft in the fourth quarter, as sales of applications for personal computers jumped 28 percent in the United States and Canada over the previous year, according to a report to be released Monday by the Software Publishers Association.

Fourth-quarter application software sales reached $3.4 billion, up from nearly $2.7 billion a year ago. Unit sales jumped 42 percent in the fourth quarter over a year ago.

The quarter was also marked by Windows 32-bit application sales--representing only products that run on Windows 95 and NT--gaining tremendous ground against those for the 16-bit version of Windows. The Windows 32-bit sales also came within a hair of surpassing its earlier-generation brethren. SPA representatives estimate Windows 32-bit application sales will exceed 16-bit figures by summer.

During the quarter, both Windows 16-bit and Macintosh software rebounded after two consecutive quarters of decline to surpass first-quarter levels. But comparing the fourth quarter to the like period a year ago, Macintosh software shipments were down 30 percent and DOS sales declined 60 percent.

Meanwhile, North American software sales jumped by more than 8 percent for the year to reach $10.6 billion, compared with $9.8 billion in 1995. Unit sales grew by 27 percent in 1996, compared with the previous year.

Windows application sales grew by 16 percent to $8.5 billion for the year, taking 81 percent of the market. Macintosh sales, however, dropped 23 percent during the year, giving the platform 11 percent of the market.

"The industry continues to expand with a healthy diversity in virtually all categories," said Ken Wasch, SPA president, in a statement. "Innovation continues to be a vital characteristic of packaged software publishing as shown in the growth of new platforms such as the Internet and Windows 95."

Other productivity applications, which include email and Internet development and tools applications, showed the strongest growth for the year.