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 The battle between Apple and Dell continues apace, and it’s not the low-cost computer company that’s winning the war as the world jitters on the edge of recession.

Apple isn’t just beating the computer industry in terms of growth and profitability (anyone mention that to Michael Dell last night?), but also seems set to kick against the prevailing economic climate, at least for now – and has grabbed now nearly half of the lucrative US student market.

A recent survey by Student Monitor found that 13% of all undergraduates expect to buy a new notebook this fall. “Of those, 43% say they plan to get a MacBook or MacBook Pro, nearly double those who said they expected to get a Dell notebook, and seven times as many as those who plan to buy from HP,” Business Week reports.

With all the survey results indicating Apple’s in the ascendancy, the company seems set to deliver a record three million Mac sales in the quarter which ends next month – a new record for Cupertino and 800,000 more Mac sales than achieved in the previous same quarter one year ago. And with Piper Jaffray estimating iPod sales of eleven million and four million (we think more) iPhone sales in the quarter, Apple continues to make waves.

The good news doesn’t end there. Apple now holds 8.5 per cent of the US computer market, putting the firm in third place behind Dell and HP. “In the second quarter, it saw its year-on-year growth rate in unit shipments hit 38%. That’s three times the rate of growth at Dell, seven times faster than HP, and nine times faster than the PC industry as a whole,” BusinessWeek continues.

“Students want to buy products that are cool, and the perception about Windows at the moment is anything but. The iPod tends to entice people from Windows over to the Mac, and the iPhone will only add to that trend,” the report added.

Enterprise results seem promising, too, with Benjamin Gray of Forrester Research recently reporting that Mac adoption among business users has QUADRUPLED since 2006.

A separate survey released today reveals 32 per cent of US consumers planning to buy a computer plan to buy a Mac. “Apple’s reached the tipping point,” said Paul Carton, ChangeWave’s research director. “Where the early adopters and the discretionary spenders were leading the charge, now as we go into the 30 per cent range [for planned purchases], the change to Apple looks permanent. What we have in the end, actually we’re sort of there now, is that buying an Apple is as normal as buying a Dell or an HP [computer] in America.”

Dell, meanwhile, appears wounded, revealing it pulled in $16 billion in revenue in the last quarter for just $616 million profit. Apple in its last quarter saw profit of $1.07 billion on revenue less than half that of Dell’s, $7.46 billion.

With the company expected to release all-new iPods, including a lower-cost iPod touch next month, alongside MacBooks, MacBook Pros a much improved iTunes 8 (now with music subscription?) and – some claim – iMacs (we think Apple may have enough on its plate without that last upgrade) we’re pretty certain as we head into the closing months of 2008, and Apple’s first FY2009 financial quarter, we’re looking at more growth ahead in Cupertino – though recent failings in the iPhone 3G and MobileMe launch suggest the company may need to reinvigorate and motivate its tired, but hard-working staff.

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