CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Apple's ( AAPL) iMac is fast emerging as the savior of the beleaguered desktop market, according to analyst firm Caris & Company. "Believe it or not, we estimate Apple's iMac accounting for a full quarter of all desktop market growth in calendar year 2010," writes Caris analyst Robert Cihra, adding that this will help stem recent desktop declines. Cihra predicts that desktops will stage a low, single-digit recovery after a tough two years, which saw shipments fall 12% between 2008 and 2009. This is being driven by emerging markets, corporate use and gamers that require significant compute power, he added.
Apple launched its latest iMac in October, touting a widescreen LED display and wireless keyboard. During its recent first-quarter results, Apple said that the new iMac contributed to 70% year-over-year growth in desktop sales. Notebooks and netbooks, however, will account for up to 90% of the tech sector's overall PC unit growth in 2010, predicts Caris. With tightly controlled pricing, Apple is well positioned for this IT spending rebound, according to the analyst firm, which predicts Mac growth 1.6 times greater than the broader PC market. Apple's Macs have certainly been feeling the love from analysts recently. Last month Needham & Company raised its Apple price target, citing healthy demand for Macs and iPhones. Needham analyst Charlie Wolf estimated that Mac shipments will enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 8.1%, reaching 24.9 million units in 2019. This will be boosted by an Apple halo effect, he said, with iPhone and iPod customers buying Macs from the consumer tech giant.
During its recent first quarter, Apple enjoyed record Mac sales of 3.36 million units, beating its previous record by 300,000. The future, however, is also looking rosier for other computer makers emerging from the recession. "We expect the first quarter of 2010 to prove the fourth quarter in a row where PC units beat broader market expectations," wrote Caris analyst Cihra. A better-than-expected first quarter, he added, suggests PC sales at the high end of Caris's 15% to 20% projected growth rate this year. Cihra, who rates Apple one of his preferred PC investments, also sees upside for hard disk specialists Western Digital ( WDC) and Seagate ( STX), as well as Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and Dell ( DELL). "We estimate PCs drive up to 55% of H-P's overall revenue growth in fiscal 2010, but just 10 cents of incremental EPS," he wrote. "Dell resumes PC unit growth back in line with the broader market (after losing 6 percentage points of share over the past four years), but at the expense of pricing and margins." Apple shares rose $1.37, or 0.61%, to $225.82 on Wednesday, in line with the modest advance in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq gain 0.63%. -- Reported by James Rogers in New York Follow James Rogers on Twitter and become a fan of TheStreet.com on Facebook.