Gartner: Apple's Q1 sales rise 30 percent in U.S.

Editor’s Note: This story is reprinted from Computerworld. For more Mac coverage, visit Computerworld’s Macintosh Knowledge Center.

Apple hung on to 5 percent of the U.S. personal computer market the first quarter of this year, research firm Gartner said Thursday, fueled by another impressive jump in systems sold compared to a year ago.

According to Gartner’s quarterly computer shipment tally, Apple sold 741,000 machines in the United States during Q1, 30 percent more than the 570,000 sold during the first three months of 2006.

The first quarter numbers are estimates only, cautioned Mika Kitagawa, a Gartner principal research analyst, since Apple won’t hold its earnings call until next Wednesday. In fact, Gartner’s research rival, IDC, omitted Apple from its report because of the lack of hard data, said analyst David Daoud.

Although Apple’s numbers look impressive at first glance, the 741,000 Macs sold in the first quarter was off from Apple’s fourth quarter figure of 808,000. In that quarter, Gartner pegged Apple’s U.S. share at 5.1 percent, a tenth of a point higher than the most recent three-month period. Both quarters, however, posted 30 percent gains over the same quarter the year before.

Like most computer manufacturers, Apple’s Mac shipments typically drop from the fourth calendar quarter to the first quarter of the next year. Last year, for example, sales that Apple attributed to “Americas”—which includes Canada as well as Central and South America—fell 4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005 to the first quarter of 2006.

“One of the two growth drivers for Apple has been replacement of the installed base,” said Kitagawa, as users substitute new Intel-based Macs for older, PowerPC-equipped systems. “That’s been the biggest growth driver, but it won’t go on forever. Sometime this year, that [part of growth] might slow down.”

The other driver of Apple’s growth, said Kitagawa, is Microsoft’s Windows Vista. “This is a good opportunity for Apple to grow their shipment” as current Windows users decide whether to upgrade to Vista or switch to the Mac.

As for Apple’s own operating system—or at least the next upgrade, Mac OS X 10.5, dubbed Leopard —it was recently pushed back to an October release. That move won’t have much effect on hardware sales, Kitagawa said.

“Leopard being late won’t have any impact on their shipments,” she said. “[Leopard] is not a growth driver, but it’ not an inhibitor either.”

Apple’s 30 percent U.S. growth rate year-to-year was the highest of any major computer maker, Gartner’s data revealed. Second on its growth chart was Toshiba America, which saw sales climb 26.8 percent in the first quarter of 2007 over 2006. Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, posted a growth rate of 25.8 percent, while Dell’s share fell from 33.9 percent of the U.S. market to 27.9 percent as unit sales plunged by 15.5 percent.

This story, "Gartner: Apple's Q1 sales rise 30 percent in U.S." was originally published by PCWorld.

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