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Apple Holds Upper Hand in PC Decline (Update 2)

Stocks in this article: MSFT AAPL DELL HPQ

HP is in the midst of a turnaround, led by CEO Meg Whitman, as it tries to turn itself into more of a complete solutions company, and while Wall Street has taken notice, the company still has a long way to go.

Dell, on the other hand, is in even worse shape. The company, which is currently trying to go private, is in third place, with around 12% of the market. It doesn't have any mobile offerings that will help drastically change the drop in PC sales. Gartner estimates sales fell 3.9% year-over-year to capture 11.8% of the market. IDC is a little more positive on Dell, noting it had 12.2% of the market, which is actually up from the first-quarter, when it had 11.7% of the PC market. However, the recent ugliness over the battle to take the company private continues to put a cloud over the company's future.

Apple is in a much different position than either HP or Dell, as the iPad has largely been responsible for the drastic decline in PC sales. Apple is still the No. 3 seller of computers in the U.S. market with 11.5% share as of the second-quarter, but sales continue to slow, albeit at a much slower pace than HP or Dell. Apple's ability to adapt well before its competitors and capture the lead in the tablet market has put the Cupertino, Calif.-based company in an enviable position, as consumers computing needs shift more and more to mobile devices.

In a note Friday to investors, UBS analyst Steven Milunovich points out that Apple, while considered "a niche PC company," is actually poised to pass Dell to become the third biggest PC company on a sales basis, behind Lenovo and HP.

With Apple having the Mac platform as well as iOS devices, there is concern that Android will "bury" iOS as a platform, but Milunovich doesn't see it that way. "Some posit that Android will take out iOS the way Windows overcame Mac based on the belief that Apple lost (not so clear since PC hardware is cumulatively in the red) because open beat closed," the analyst wrote in his note. "Alternative explanations are that Microsoft won more on economies of scale or that Apple made a mistake trying to monetize both sides of its multi-sided platform. We don't buy that Android is going to bury iOS."

CEO Tim Cook has said in the past that the iPad may wind up being the biggest opportunity of all for Apple, as the PC market continues to shrink, and Apple continues to innovate in mobile devices.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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