Apple's fourth quarter 2003 global market share dipped under 2 per cent for the first time, according to Merril Lynch.

Apple holds ninth position in the market with 1.7 per cent share in the quarter, but the analyst observed: "We expect iPod success eventually to spill over into Mac purchases."

The analyst has increased its unit growth forecast for the PC market for 2004 to 13 per cent from a previous estimate of 11 per cent. It did so because the consumer market remains strong and it anticipates continued improvement in the business markets, as corporate entities are finally driven to engage in long-delayed upgrades to their tech infrastructure.

A report on the Forbes Web site reveals that HP remains the world's number one PC manufacturer, with 15.3 per cent market share; Dell has a 14.5 per cent share and threatens to "leapfrog" HP, according to the analysts.

IBM came third with 5.3 per cent, Fujitsu carries 3.8 per cent and fifth place Acer holds 3.5 per cent market share.