Apple saw year-on-year sales climb 17.1 per cent in Europe in the third quarter 2003, reports IDC.

IDC's European personal computing group's research director Karine Paoli told Macworld: "Apple is showing good performance in this quarter, improving on the desktop front, and displaying sustained growth in the notebook sector."

Apple is the ninth highest-selling EMEA (Europe, Middle East and African) computer manufacturer, with 1.5 per cent of the market. Total third-quarter shipments in Europe reached 158,000 units, for a year-on-year growth of 17.1 per cent, IDC said.

PC shipments grew by 18.7 per cent in the quarter year-on-year. IDC believes the growth was stimulated by "relentless price erosion and fierce competition across both business and consumer channels".

Paoli said: "Assisted by a growing entry-level product offering, sharp price cuts, and fierce vendor competition, consumer notebook sales continued to boom, recording historic growth levels in the back-to-school season."

Notebook sales for all manufacturers rose 51 per cent in the region, with prices falling over 25 per cent year-on-year, IDC said. Apple saw 18 per cent growth in notebooks year-on-year – below the EMEA average.

Supply problem This may be explained by lack of availability. Prior to the launch of an updated PowerBook range at Apple Expo Paris, UK resellers complained that PowerBooks were in short supply.

It may also reflect increased competition in the notebook market, and the introduction of units based on Intel's Centrino processor.

Paoli observed: "Apple still has a strong notebooks product-mix, but saw below market average growth in this quarter, in which the total EMEA notebook market increased by over 50 per cent."

Apple took 4.1 per cent of the world's notebook market in 2003's second quarter, and 3.8 per cent in the UK.

The third quarter saw a positive outcome for Apple in the desktop market, in which the company saw year-on-year growth of 17.3 per cent to become the eighth best-selling manufacturer.

Paoli said: "As anticipated, desktop sales showed improvement over previous quarters, driven by a gradual rebound in business renewals. Despite these gains, the notebook market has clearly been the major contributor to overall growth in EMEA."

She added: "As economic conditions are still fragile, and renewal cycles are only gradually picking up, continued price erosion has clearly been a major volume generation weapon again this quarter."

Vendors’ attempts to drive buyers toward higher-end products may be stymied by economic reality, Paoli warned: "Vendors may try to rebalance the market towards higher-end products, but the fourth quarter could well present very similar market patterns and vendors may have no choice other than to remain very aggressive to stimulate demand."