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Apple may take No. 3 spot on list of U.S. computer makers

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The momentum for Apple computers has become one of the most interesting comeback stories in the technology industry.

Competing technology research firms today released competing numbers for Apple’s share of the personal computer market in the second quarter. IDC pegged Apple at 7.8%, tied with Acer, which acquired Gateway last year. Gartner says Apple has 8.5% of the market, ahead of Acer with 8.1%. The two firms say they will know for sure on Monday when Apple releases Mac sales figures as part of its earnings report.

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Check out Apple’s market share roller coaster ride: In 1994, the Cupertino, Calif., company had 11.4% of the personal computer market, according to IDC. It hit bottom in 2003 with 3.25%. In April, IDC reported that Apple had risen to 6%.

Gartner said Apple shipped nearly 1.4 million computers in the second quarter, up 38% from the same period last year, and IDC said sales rose 32% to 1.3 million. IDC analyst David Daoud said the chief factor for the rise was the ‘halo effect’ -- the popularity of Apple’s iPod and iPhone has brought more people into stores and made them more open to buying a Mac. In the second quarter, he said, Apple benefited too from its traditional strength selling to the education market.

‘It is possible that Apple will pass Acer when the official numbers come in,’ Daoud said. ‘People have positive feelings about the Apple brand. It’s no surprise the company is experiencing this momentum.’

Even if it secures the No. 3 spot, Apple is still far behind the two PC sales leaders: Dell is still the No. 1 seller of PCs in the U.S., with 32% of the market and HP follows with 25%, IDC says. Worldwide, the situation is reversed. HP is still the PC leader with 19% and Dell follows with 16.4%. Apple hasn’t cracked the Top 5 yet.

-- Michelle Quinn


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