Apple was ranked number four in computer retail and mail order sales in the US during January.

According to research by PC Data, Apple accounted for 10.9 per cent of unit sales – a 17 per cent growth.

Compaq was number one with 34 per cent market share, and Hewlett-Packard took second place with 32.1 per cent – a 57 per cent unit increase over last year. At number three, E-Machines took 12.9 per cent of the market.

Unit growth of Windows-based PCs slowed for the fourth consecutive month, according to PC Data. It also reported that sales of low-end PC systems (under $600) fell from 35 per cent to 22.9 per cent, while PCs under $1,000 took more than 75 per cent of unit sales.

The report noted the decline in the number of PC manufacturers in the retail/mail order market, with the top four companies capturing 90 per cent of unit sales. This is compared with 76 per cent in January 1999.

It also noted the popularity of PCs with CD-rewriteable drives – an option that Apple does not offer with any of its systems. PC Data’s director of hardware analysis Steve Baker commented: "The hottest trend in PCs remained the inclusion of CD rewriteable drives in PCs. Over 40 per cent of all PCs sold in January had this type of storage."