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Apple was the only major computer maker to increase its shipments into the UK PC market during the final three months of 2011.

Figures posted today by Gartner, a market watcher, noted shipment declines for the four remaining players in the UK top five.

Apple's shipments rose 17.2 per cent from 228,000 units in Q4 2010 to 267,000 in Q4 2011. That growth lifted it above Acer, which experienced a decline of 62.4 per cent, the biggest recorded by Gartner. Acer's shipments fell from 610,000 units to 230,000 year on year.

These figures don't include iPad shipments, Gartner was at pains to point out. Had they done so, Apple's success would contrast even more sharply with the experiences of its rivals.

Dell suffered a 32.2 per cent fall, its shipments falling from 601,000 to 408,000. That was still sufficient for it to retain its number two position behind market leader HP. HP's shipments fell from 847,000 units to 618,000, a decline of 27 per cent. Both companies suffered from a low uptake of Windows PCs by big business.

Third-placed Toshiba shipments dipped a mere 5.4 per cent, falling from 313,000 units in Q4 2010 to 296,000 in the final three months of 2011.

If Apple continues to grow, it's hard to see it staying in fourth place behind Toshiba, but it's unlikely to pose much of a threat to Dell, let alone HP.

Still, these PC companies need a lift: all undoubtedly hope the launch of Intel's Ultrabook platform will rekindle their consumer appeal. Unlikely, we'd say, until Ultrabook prices fall.

The UK chart contrasts significantly with that of Western Europe as a whole. In the broader market, Acer stands second only to HP, though both firms saw shipments fall: down 46.1 per cent in Acer's case.

A 9.5 per cent dip in Dell shipments allowed Asus to wrest the third slot from the Texan giant. Asus shipments increased a modest 1.5 per cent, thanks to greater consumer interest in its laptops.

Lenovo's shipments rose too, by an impressive - for the current market conditions - 13.9 per cent, putting it in fifth place. ®

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