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We're buying more boxes than we used to, but PC manufacturers aren't exactly dancing in the streets.

Gartner published its PC sales metrics for the third quarter last night. The industry tracker estimates that 91.8 million computers were shipped during the period, a 3.2% increase from the number of desktops and laptops during last year's third quarter. Gartner was originally targeting a 5.1% increase, but global weakness -- particularly in Western Europe -- sunk that early projection.

The silver lining here is that unit volume increased by 1.1% in the United States. PC sales had suffered year-over-year declines in each of this year's first two quarters.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) also padded its market share lead, growing its unit shipments by 5.1% to 16.2 million -- or 17.7% of all PCs shipped during the quarter. The news isn't so good for stateside rival Dell (NYSE: DELL  ) , overtaken by Asian giant Lenovo for second place. Dell's unit shipments fell by 1.4% globally and a problematic 7.2% domestically.

The news is also good for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) . The Mac daddy has seen its U.S. market share grow from 10.8% to 12.9% over the past year. It's important to remember that Gartner's quarterly missives are based on units and not dollar volume. Apple's share on actual sales should be even higher given its pricier systems.

Apple's success opens up a new way to spin the Gartner data. Take Apple out of equation and PC sales in this country would have fallen by 1.4% -- or the third straight period of year-over-year declines.

Am I the only one that finds that nugget more than a little alarming? It's hard to get too excited about accessory maker Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI  ) or Windows dresser Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) if that trend continues.

If you want to see if the bulls or the bears have the last laugh, track the company by adding Apple to My Watchlist.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for HP. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Logitech International. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Dell, Logitech International, Apple, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft, as well as a write covered call position in Logitech International. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 11:07 AM, deemery wrote:

    What's important to note is that Gartner's figures do not include "media tablets", their term for iPads and the wanna-be's. That's significant because the growth of iPads is eating substantially into the PC market, particularly at the low end/consumer purchases. Even my mother now wants an iPad instead of a new computer.

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