Apple’s Mac sales flat, but still beat industry

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.


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  • Ben

    We stopped buying Macs with the release of Lion; the OS is dumbing down, moving towards an IOS-like blinkered view of the world. The Mac app store is also now insisting on selling applications that are inherently limited in what they can do and access.

    Apple continues to ignore the mid-tower segment, which is really what we’re most interested in; machines in the $1000 range that are upgradable with more drives, fast graphics… the Macpro is far too expensive, though a lovely machine, and the mini, while now quite powerful and somewhat expandable via the new ports, has horrible shared graphics you can’t replace. Both are crippled, because they require Lion.

    Right now the best Macs are bought used on EBay; older Mac Pros with Snow Leopard or that can be brought up to Snow Leopard and either have, or can have added, decent graphics cards with non-proprietary connections, memory and drives. They’ll last many years because of the outstanding build quality, and Snow Leopard is, frankly, Apple’s last decent OS.

    With current machines, sandboxing and the other “mommy” features are awful, the broken multiple-monitor support, the wreckage they made out of applescript, loss of reasonable scroll bars, and the fact that new machines won’t run without them… these are real show-stoppers. So no new machines are being bought here, nor do we plan to unless Apple reverses course.

    Someone at Apple wants to make machines that only run canned applications, not general purpose computers. They need to be let go before they destroy the brand. OSX was the ideal OS; a unix base with a great UI. IMHO, they need to get back to that.