By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
January 16, 2009

CEO Steve Jobs may be struggling with health problems, but sales of Apple’s computers seem to be holding up.

In a holiday quarter in which the PC industry recorded dismal growth — its worst since 2002, according to Gartner Research — Apple (AAPL) sold more than 1.25 million Macintosh systems in the United States, up 8.3% from the same quarter last year.

Domestic shipments of Dell (DELL) computers, by contrast, were down 16.4% and HP’s (HPQ) off by 3.4%, according to preliminary fourth quarter sales figures released Thursday by Gartner. (Click here for press release.)

The news was mixed for Apple, however. Although sales were up year-to-year, they were down 23% from the previous quarter — often the Mac’s strongest because it includes back-to-school promotions. (Mac sales declined 0.24% between September and December 2006, according to company, but grew 7.16% between the same two quarters in 2007.)

Apple moved from third to fourth place in Gartner’s survey as the Mac’s domestic market share slipped to 8% from 9.5% in October. (See Macintosh share of the U.S. market tops 9%.)

The big winners last quarter were Acer (sales up 55.4% in the United States) and Toshiba (up 12%) — largely on the strength of their mini-notebooks (a.k.a. netbooks), which sold in large numbers, and at steep discounts, in the last days before Christmas.

Apple, by contrast, kept its prices — and presumably its margins — high over the holidays. We’ll find out how profitable those sales were when the company releases its quarterly earnings next Wednesday.

Overall, worldwide PC shipments totaled 78.1 million units in calendar Q4 according to Gartner, a paltry 1.1% increase over the same quarter last year.

Below the fold, Gartner’s raw data for domestic and worldwide PC sales. Note that in Gartner’s global results (Table 1), Apple’s worldwide sales are consigned to the “others” column.

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