Apple is historically a small player in the PC world compared to many of its peers, but it may have just entered the big leagues. IDC estimates that the company jumped to 6.3 percent market share in the third quarter of the year, making it the fifth-largest PC builder worldwide -- a feat it hasn't managed in decades. It's still no major threat to heavy-hitters such as Lenovo (20 percent), HP (18.8 percent) and Dell (13.3 percent), but IDC believes that a combination of slight price cuts and improved demand in "mature" markets like North America have helped it grow in a computer market that's still shrinking.
With that said, the crew in Cupertino probably isn't breaking out the party streamers right away. Gartner contends that ASUS claimed the fifth-place spot with 7.3 percent, and that Apple only sits in the top five in its native US. So what gives? In short, it's a difference in methodology; Gartner and IDC don't have official shipping numbers from everyone, and there's enough wiggle room in their estimates that it wouldn't take much for the rankings to change. As precise as these figures may be, you'll get a better sense of how Apple fared when it posts its fiscal results (and real shipping numbers) in a couple of weeks.