Never has nothing felt so nice.
As we’re all digesting Apple’s latest earnings report, one quick thing jumped out at me: Apple’s computer sales. Apple shipped 4.9 million Macs in its fiscal fourth quarter. That was about the same amount it shipped in the same period last year, so the company’s computer sales showed essentially no growth. (OK, growth was actually 0.6 percent, but that’s less than a rounding error.)
In a vacuum, that performance might sound terrible. But set in context, it looks pretty darn good.
You see, according to Gartner and IDC, two of the leading tech research firms, overall PC sales fell by 8 percent or more in the most recent quarter. So having flat sales is something of an achievement.
It’s no secret that PC makers have hit hard times. Sales are slowing. Some analysts are blaming competition from the iPad and other tablets. Others are attributing the slowdown to consumers and retailers waiting for the release of Windows 8.
Whatever the reason, Apple hasn’t been immune to the trend. Its Mac sales growth has slowed dramatically over the last year. As recently as last holiday season, Apple’s Mac sales grew at a 26 percent annual rate. But over the last three quarters, that growth rate dropped to 6.8 percent, then 1.8 percent and now 0.6 percent.
Still, as CEO Tim Cook noted at the company’s iPad mini event earlier this week, Apple’s sales growth in computers has outpaced the industry for six years running. And if you count the iPad as a computer, Apple’s sales growth looks quite robust compared to the rest of the industry.
It will be interesting to see if Apple is able to continue to outpace the industry in the current quarter, with the launch of Windows 8. Not only could Microsoft’s new operating system juice PC sales, it also could help Apple’s rivals cut into sales of the iPad. Windows 8′s new interface was designed with touch-based machines like the iPad in mind and manufacturers are releasing a slew of new tablets and PCs that convert into tablets to take advantage of that feature.
Of course, Apple isn’t standing still. At the iPad mini event earlier this week, it updated its computer lineup — and, of course, added a smaller, cheaper iPad to its offerings.