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Mac Sales Growth Eclipses Average For PC Companies

Apple Inc. sold 1.6 million Macs in the quarter than ended Dec. 31, the company announced Wednesday, to end the year up nearly 30% from the year prior, easily outpacing U.S. and global PC growth rates. Analysts, however, don't think that the surge can be sustained.

For the quarter -- the first in its 2007 fiscal year, but the fourth in the calendar year -- Apple sold 637,000 desktop and 969,000 portable Macs, nearly the same amounts it sold in the quarter before. Unit sales were up 28% for the last 12 months over the same period the year before, but revenues were up even more dramatically: 40%. The spike was driven in part by an increase in the average Mac price. In the fourth quarter, the average price of a desktop Mac was $1,499, with portables averaging slightly higher at $1,501. Those numbers are substantially above the previous quarter's average prices of $1,392 and $1,363 for desktops and portables, respectively.

The sales pushed up Apple's share of the U.S. market to 4.7% by IDC's figures, 5.1% by rival research firm Gartner's. But more impressive, say analysts, is the Cupertino, Calif., company's ability to outstrip other PC makers, and the global average, in growth.

"Apple's done extremely well compared to the overall U.S. market," says Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. While overall U.S. total sales slipped 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2006 compared to 2005's last three months, Apple swelled its numbers by 30.6%.

IDC's numbers showed the same beat-the-average performance. "This is pretty significant growth," says David Daoud, an IDC analyst. "It highlights the fact that the company is taking the right steps. It's moved to more standard components with the shift to Intel, and has benefited from the growth of its own retail stores as well as inking deals with sellers like Best Buy," Daoud says. "Apple is much better at reaching out to customers than most all of its competitors."

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