Despite the U.S. computer market falling by almost six percent in Q4 2011, Apple recorded growth of over 20 percent and maintained third place in U.S. computer sales.

Apple was the only major company to record growth in sales for the fourth quarter of 2011, with 20.5 percent, while HP, Dell, Acer and Toshiba all reported losses of between two and 26 percent, according to research firm Gartner, which released its preliminary Q4 shipping estimates on January 11.

Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q11 (Thousands of Units)   Credit: Gartner

The Cupertino company now represents 11.6 percent of PC sales in the United States, behind HP and Dell in first and second place with 23.1 percent and 22.4 percent respectively.

Toshiba is ranked fourth with 10.7 percent and Acer fifth with 9.8 percent, while other manufacturers combined make up 22.4 percent of the American PC market.

Apple blog MacRumors summarises: "Apple's share dipped from 12.9% in the third quarter, which is routinely the company's strongest quarter due to a heavy presence in education. But the performance marks a distinct improvement over Apple's 9.0% share in the year-ago quarter and continues a long-term trend of increasing market share."

IDC has also released its numbers but, as usual, it has reported a slightly lower market share for Apple, rating the Mac manufacturer at 10.92 per cent of the U.S. market, but the IDC figures still place Apple in third place overall.

Apple's U.S. market share of PC shipments has grown from just four percent at the start of 2006 to the 11.6 percent that it represented at the end of 2011.

With talk of a new range of MacBook Pros - possibly with a retina display - and a new 15-inch MacBook Air, Apple will hope to grow its market share even more in 2012.