Apple's success continues in Europe, according to analysts at IDC, noting that 2004's fourth quarter saw Apple deliver its highest quarterly growth for a year-and-a-half.

The company's already on a roll globally, with its Mac unit sales rising at a higher percentage rate than the industry average. The pattern in Europe appears to be the same.

Double market growth

Apple's shipments in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) climbed 33.2 per cent year-on-year in 2004's fourth quarter, revealed analyst Ian Gibbs."Growth was nearly double that of the overall market", he confirmed.

Apple shipped 197,635 desktops and 122,860 notebooks in the quarter in the EMEA region, according to IDC's own figures.

While Apple isn't among the top five players in the European PC market, IDC's EMEA Q4 04 report states: "Apple finally benefited from a major upturn of its iMac sales in 4Q, and the recent launch of the new Mac Mini could well enable the vendor to leverage further from its iPod brand equity into the personal computing market."

IDC noted that the market remained strong with a "healthy rebound" across the year. PC sales grew 17.2 per cent quarter on quarter for a yearly growth rate of 19 per cent. 60 million PCs shipped in the region.

IDC personal computing group research director Karine Paoli said: "The momentum in notebook growth continued unabated in Europe as we anticipated, with notebook shipments recording another solid quarter at 35 per cent. Buoyant consumer demand over the Christmas period and strong desktop replacement trends in the small-medium business market have continued to assist overall growth across EMEA."

iMac drives Mac desktop surge

Apple saw its desktop sales grow most - 52 per cent year-on-year. Notebook demand remains, though the growth rate has abated somewhat - to 11 per cent. The desktop market (across the industry) represents over 60 per cent of total PC sales.

Gibbs described this as a: "Reversal of the trends seen over the last few quarters, where Apple's notebook growth has usually exceeded that of its desktops."

He surmised that the desktop Mac sales growth has been driven by the "long-awaited" release of the new iMac G5. "Pent-up demand from the last quarter combined with strong seasonal Christmas demand to fuel iMac shipment growth," he wrote.

Next twelve months are 'critical'

Globally, Apple saw 25 per cent unit sales growth in the final quarter of 2004, in contrast to an industry average of 13.7 per cent. Apple's US market share climbed a point, too - from 3.2 per cent to 3.3 per cent.

Focusing on the future, Gibbs stressed the importance of the next twelve months to Apple: "Next year is going to be a very important year for Apple as the industry watches and waits to see how successful its Mac Mini will be," he said.

Apple is playing its hand: "The release of the mini represents concrete steps from Apple to attempt to leverage from its now very strong brand name stemming from its iPod success, and apply it to the PC market", he said.

"Apple has taken one step closer to the PC mass-market with its Mac mini release."