Despite emerging competition and an already sizable market share, Apple Computer continues to gain share with its venerable iPod music player latest research finds.

Shares of the iPods in the portable media player market grew 2 percent to take 79 percent of the total market in the past six months, according to research released Wednesday by equities firm, Piper Jaffray.

Of the students surveyed in the fall 2006 PJC teen survey, we found that 72 percent own an MP3 player and 79 percent specifically own an iPod, said analyst Gene Munster.

The study, which surveyed 1000 high school students, found that 45 percent of students expect to buy a new media player within a year, with 76 percent of those preferring iPods.

While Apple may have lost some ground in this category, 76 percent is still significantly higher than the next highest at 8 percent (Sony), Munster told clients.

We believe that winning over the teen demographic is critical to continued long-term growth and Apple is clearly in the lead in this market segment, the analyst added.

Pipper Jaffray maintained an outperform rating on the company, targeting $99 per share.