Apple's third-quarter unit shipments rose sequentially, but fell slightly year-on-year, the company revealed last night.

It shifted 771,000 Macs, up from 711,000 in the previous quarter. It sold 808,000 units in the year-ago quarter.

Power Mac sales continued to slide, falling 20 per cent year-on-year. Apple sold 133,000 Power Macs in the quarter, against 156,000 in the previous quarter, and 167,000 a year ago. The product contributed $234 million to Apple's bottom-line.

Apple chief financial officer Fred Anderson waxed positive for Apple's future in the professional markets. He said: “G5 Power Macs and the release of QuarkXPress for OS X are laying the foundation for future growth in Power Mac sales. Customer response has been strong for the new pro desktops.” He confirmed that the new machines would begin shipping in August.

Company growth in the fourth quarter will be driven by sales of G5 systems and displays, he said, adding that he did not expect Apple to return to the 350,000 Power Mac sales per quarter it once enjoyed, instead targeting 200,000 sales per quarter. He attributed this to a trend among pro users to switch to portable systems.

Apple's G4 Power Mac sales suffered on launch in 1999 because Motorola was unable to keep up with processor demand. Analysts asked Anderson if IBM would be able to meet demand on G5 chips. He said he was “confident” IBM would be able to do so.

Apple also benefited from strong Final Cut Pro 4 sales, which "contributed significantly" to Apple's software sales in the quarter, Anderson said. Apple earned $166 million in software sales in the quarter, up 37 per cent, year-on-year.

PowerBook sales climbed 71 per cent, and 46 per cent of all Macs sold during the quarter were portables. This confirmed Apple CEO Steve Jobs' January announcement that 2003 would be “the year of the notebook”, and matched a trend across the computer industry, Anderson said.