Mac sales are continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate, with US consumer sales up 60 per cent in the last 12 months, according to new numbers from market research firm NPD. The figures also show that Apple's market share now stands at 14 per cent - naysayers take note.

Apple is also continuing to outpace the industry average, where unit sales of both laptop and desktop systems grew by just 9 per cent. This proves the Mac's popularity is growing in real terms, not just the result of a general rise in sales.

Floating on the MacBook Air

NPD says Apple is doing particularly well in laptops, posting 64 per cent growth, with the MacBook Air selling particularly well. Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves told investors yesterday that:

"MacBook Air sales appear to be additive to total sales, rather than replacing MacBook Pro sales. We believe a new set of corporate customers make up a meaningful portion of MacBook Air buyers."

Apple's booming laptop business also contrasts strongly with the industry average, which has seen a 20 per cent increase overall, according to Apple Insider.

Even Apple's iMac and Mac Pro desktop settings are beating the industry average - with sales up 55 per cent, compared to a 5 decline in the desktop market overall.

Boom times for Apple

One of the reasons that Mac sales are rising is that the general public is finally cottoning on the fact that Macs use the same PC architecture as their Windows counterparts, enabling them to make direct comparisons between the machines on performance, features and price - areas where the Mac arguably comes out strongest.

The so-called 'iPod halo effect' is undoubtedly working too, persuading owners of both the iPhone and iPod to consider other Apple products when making a new purchase - no doubt helped by the huge levels of publicity and hype that surround the iPhone's launch.

There is a third reason. Windows Vista. PC awitchers are obviously prepared to forego the pleasures of Microsoft's new OS in favour of Mac OS X Leopard, which - despite a fair share of problems of its own - has been widely praised since its launch last October.