Apple exceeded PC industry growth trends in the last quarter of 2004, IDC reports.

Worldwide, Apple saw 25 per cent growth in the quarter, in contrast to an industry average of 13.7 per cent, the analyst firm reports. Apple's US market share climbed a point, too - from 3.2 per cent to 3.3 per cent.

"Apple had a notably strong quarter, with growth of more than 25 per cent This gain represents a significant improvement over prior quarters, reflecting the introduction of the G5 iMac as well as some substantiation that PC sales have benefited from the popularity of Apple's music business," said IDC.

IDC added that the iMac and music products are, "reinvigorating a business that had been struggling to keep pace with the market."

Europe drives industry growth

Across all manufacturers, IDC's Quarterly PC Tracker shows total PC shipments rose to 51.5 million for 2004's fourth quarter - the seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. The analyst had predicted 13 per cent growth.

A total of 177.5 million PCs shipped in 2004, a growth rate of 14.7 per cent, "representing peak recovery following the market contraction of 2001, and essentially meeting IDC's forecast of 14.5 per cent", the analyst said.

Shipments were 26 per cent above those in 2000. IDC expects PC shipments to grow 10 per cent this year.

IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker director Loren Loverde observed: "Business demand and growth in key regions like EMEA continue to drive the market."

Digital lifestyle drives consumer growth

"Although we saw a seasonal rise in consumer shipments, particularly in EMEA and Rest of World, business remains a larger market and has been growing faster since mid-2004. Ongoing PC replacements and new investment should continue to drive commercial growth at least through the end of 2005."

Roger Kay, vice president of client computing at IDC said: "Spending on PCs by all sizes of business continues to improve steadily, and consumers came out in force in the holiday quarter to pursue their growing interest in PCs and the digital lifestyle."