Apple exceeded average market growth in Europe last year, according to market analysts IDC.

Europe's PC market grew 19.7 per cent year-on-year during 2003's final quarter with business driven by ever-increasing notebook demand and the emergence of the long-awaited corporate refresh cycle that has been absent for four years, analysts firm IDC revealed.

Apple exceeded the curve, shipping over 51,000 Macs in the last three months of 2003 in the UK; a 25 per cent growth in sales year-on-year, IDC told Macworld.

IDC figures show that 4.5 million notebooks shipped in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) in the quarter – a year-on-year increase of 49 per cent in the notebook market that helped the general PC market climb 19.7 per cent. 10.6 million desktops also shipped for a year-on-year 10.2 per cent climb. Overall, PC shipments reached record levels in the quarter, IDC said.

Apple saw a 10 per cent growth in its desktop sales and a 50 per cent growth in notebook sales, for an overall growth rate of 25 per cent.

IDC analyst Ian Gibbs observed: “Obviously, this is very promising for Apple – particularly when combined with the success of the iPod.”

IDC research director EMEA personal computing group Karine Paoli described Q4 2003 as: "An interesting quarter continuing the trends seen in the last quarter but with fierce competition and robust demand in the notebook space which boosted shipments in EMEA and worldwide – a nice finish for 2003."

Worldwide PC shipments hit 44.5 million units for year-on-year unit growth of 15.2 per cent. The US saw growth of 15.4 per cent.

Paoli said: "Notebook sales continue to boom with robust demand in the consumer and small business markets driven by attractive prices and fierce vendor competition in retail and business channels. The healthy rebound in desktop sales was assisted by gradual pick-up in corporate refresh cycles and the arrival of fiscal year end boosting business purchases."

IDC observed: "After four years affected by constrained budgets, corporate refresh cycles are starting to take place. This is expected to accelerate in 2004. Consumer and small-business desktop sales are improving but are affected by the continued shift to notebooks".

Gibbs pointed to the strong Christmas market: “The consumer market continued to boom in the fourth quarter, further fuelled by seasonal Christmas buying trends – a major factor in Apple’s success.”

The analysts predict 13.6 per cent growth in the European PC market this year, with notebooks expected to help drive the curve.