The US computer-software market remains stable, despite sales in the computer-hardware market wearing thin, according to figures released by analysts NPD Intelect.

Retail unit sales in the software market approached the 70 million mark in the first half of 2001, gaining 0.2 per cent from the first six months of 2000. Retail software sales revenues improved 1.2 per cent, approaching $2.8 billion.

Steve Koenig, senior software analyst for NPD Intelect, said: "This year's second quarter retail software revenue was $1.23 billion, representing a 1.9 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

"As is typical in the software market, overall retail software sales slowed in the second quarter of 2001, with revenue down about 20 per cent compared to first quarter results. The drop last year was 21 percent."

Business growth Software categories experiencing revenue growth during the first half of 2001 were finance and business, up 12.5 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively.

Tax software was a winner in the finance category, commanding nearly three-quarters of finance sales. Over a million more tax software titles were sold in the first half of 2001 compared to the same period in 2000.

Ease of use Koenig continued: "Tax software sales have steadily gained momentum over the past several years, as the software has become more comprehensive, faster and easier to use.

"Year-to-date unit and dollar sales in the finance category are up 16.2 per cent and 12.5 percent respectively, making it the fastest growing software segment this year."

The increased threat of viruses - for instance Melissa - has prompted strong sales growth of virus detection and communication titles. Unit sales in the business-software segment improved 7.7 per cent during the first half of 2001.

Apple's latest operating system, Mac OS X, has helped the company improve over all sales by 20 per cent during the first half of 2001.