Apple's market share continues to climb, with the company emerging as the third largest PC supplier in the US, new research reveals.

Apple’s hardware shipments for the third-quarter surged 15.9 percent over the same quarter last year, according to a report released Wednesday by market research firm IDC.

Apple holds a 6.3 per cent market share in the US, behind Dell (28 per cent) and HP (24.3 per cent). Apple leads Toshiba (5.2 per cent) and Gateway (5.2 per cent), IDC figures confirm.

These results are borne out by news from Gartner, who claim Apple's share of the US personal computer market for the third calendar quarter of 2007 was 8.1 per cent, up from 6.2 per cent one year ago. Gartner also declares Apple to be the third biggest computer supplier in the US.

In the US, Dell shipped 5.01 million PCs in the third quarter, a 4.8 per cent drop compared to last year. HP's PC shipments increased 16.9 per cent to 4.35 million, accounting for 24.3 per cent of the market. In third place was Apple, whose year-over-year shipments increased 15.9 per cent to 1.13 million. Gateway, which shipped 865,000 PCs, recorded a 14.2 per cent year-over-year fall.

On a global basis. Apple fared less well. Hewlett-Packard maintained its lead over Dell as the world's largest PC supplier in the third quarter of 2007, extending a slim margin it established last year, market researcher IDC said Wednesday.

HP's PC market share increased in the US, fast approaching leader Dell, whose market share fell, according to IDC's quarterly report of PC unit shipments.

The number of PCs shipped worldwide was 66.85 million, a 15.5 per cent year-over-year increase. The jump was attributed to a strong demand for portables, including laptops and ultraportables, and PC demand in the small- and -medium business market. While adoption of laptops and ultraportables increased worldwide, desktop shipments decreased in the US, the survey said.

HP shipped 13.1 million PCs worldwide in the third quarter, a 19.6 per cent market share and a 33 perc ent year-over-year increase. Dell followed in second place, shipping 10.18 million units, a 3.8 per cent increase over the previous year, IDC said. Lenovo Group, Acer and Toshiba followed in the third, fourth and fifth spots, respectively.

Acer, which became the world's third-largest PC vendor when it acquired Gateway on Wednesday, recorded a 59.2 per cent increase in worldwide PC shipments. These quarterly figures are before the acquisition was final.

HP has momentum on its side, while Dell is in the process of restructuring, said Loren Loverde, program director at IDC. At the same time, many users are making the conversion from desktops to laptops as they get more experience using PCs, Loverde said.

The survey defined PCs as desktops, notebooks, ultraportables and Intel-based servers. The statistics do not include handhelds or smartphones, according to IDC.

Demand for PCs over the next few years will continue to increase due to vendor competition and increased commercial spending, IDC projected.