Here’s a piece on IDC’s PC Tracker numbers for the first quarter of the year. They’re quite revealing when you look at them soberly. The first thing you have to do, as I’ve argued before, is pull Apple out of the “PC” mix, so Apple (Mac) […]


Here’s a piece on IDC’s PC Tracker numbers for the first quarter of the year. They’re quite revealing when you look at them soberly.

The first thing you have to do, as I’ve argued before, is pull Apple out of the “PC” mix, so Apple (Mac) can be compared against all the others (PC). Comparing Apple’s figures to an overall figure that includes Apple’s totals makes no sense.

In the U.S., we can pull Apple’s figures from the PC total and come up with 13,835 for 1Q ’09, and 14,297 for 1Q ’08, for PCs. Some quick math shows that to be an overall Y/Y drop of 3.23 percent.

Apple’s figures, as the number 4 vendor, show a drop of 1.22 percent.

Right off the bat you can see PC sales dropped 2 percent more than Macs. It would be hard (impossible, really), based on these numbers, to say that Apple was doing anything but better than the PC industry. And the real story goes even deeper than that.

Consider this:

  • Lots of noise is made over HP’s and Acer’s gains, but clearly these have come at the expense of Dell and “Others.” You can’t change the fact that overall the PC industry is down over three points.
  • Millions and millions of netbooks have been sold, without which the PC figure would be worse. Why does this matter? Ultimately unit sales mean nothing, what matters is profits, and netbooks are even more razor-thin than cheap laptops.
  • Speaking of cheap laptops, those are practically being given away. The deals at HP and others are so “good” right now that there’s even less money in it for the vendor.
  • Apple, meanwhile, dropped by a much smaller amount than the PC industry.
  • A good portion of the quarter Apple didn’t even have their latest models available, being launched in March.
  • Apple did not have to rely on a “netbook” to drive its sales; profit margins are still good.
  • Apple also did not have to rely on giveaways or free upgrades.

I realize the above figures are U.S.-only, but it’s where IDC has provided detailed Apple figures. Besides, it’s silly to think that globally this overall trend for Apple will be different. Especially since — as PC supporters frequently point out — Apple is a smaller player on the global front.

And, no, I’m not saying a year-over-year drop is a good thing. Of course it isn’t. I’m saying it’s all relative, and one must consider the conditions under which the drop occurred.

The bottom line is this: For all the ranting and raving by analysts about lowering prices in this economy, which PC vendors have done, Apple has continued to produce quality Macs at good profit margins and still dropped less than the PC industry.

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  1. I love Apple and the products but this article looks exactly like the sort that make PC users and the rest of the world that don’t really care what their pc is, so long as it has the blue e for the internet on it, give us the title of fanbois.

    A loss is a loss, straight up. Due to the massive shipments of net books and the such like it makes the relevance of that smaller mark up you speak of diminish considerably. This recession is hitting everything pretty much (except maybe defense) and the way to deal with it IS to cut your profit and hope for some kind of growth. In the end that’s more customers that you can cash in on in the future.

    I’m glad Apple haven’t dropped their prices, just like BMW, Merc and Audi they are a more expensive product aiming at a certain type of user who will pay more because it matters to them. I need a new laptop, I can’t afford a new Macbook but I’m not jumping ship to a PC manufacturer, I will wait and save (now there’s a concept that people should have employed over the last few years rather than credit credit credit)

    I digress, my point is, a loss is a loss is a loss. You can’t paint it any different to that, it’s indeed a small loss but don’t try to say that it is any different.

  2. Simon,

    I’m not sure I understand what your comment is supposed to mean. I specifically said this:

    “And, no, I’m not saying a Y/Y drop is a good thing. Of course it isn’t.”

    So clearly we agree that a loss isn’t “good”. But when you say I can’t “say that it is any different”, where did I do that? Like I said:

    “I’m saying it’s all relative, and one must consider the conditions under which the drop occurred.”

    There’s a recession going on. A drop is not unexpected nor surprising. That doesn’t mean one can’t (or shouldn’t) examine the drop in context and draw valid conclusions. That’s what I did.

    The horror stories from the Apple-bashing press about Mac sales dropping double-digit percent Y/Y in January and February — ignoring the lack of new models and the MacBook Air’s introduction in ’08 February — would have us all believe Apple was heading for a disastrous quarter. Clearly, that’s not the case. They did BETTER than the PC industry, and did so without needing dirt-cheap netbooks or giveaway upgrades. THAT, in context, is good news.

  3. I’m sorry, but you can not use logic and reason to explain facts.

    This is the internet, we need hype and wild guesses based on our presuppositions of what is happening.

    A bit more seriously:
    Thank you Tom for taking the time to do some research and deep analysis to come up with a factual explanation of the trends in PC and Mac sales.

  4. Who in the world is buying Acer?

  5. Oak,

    Keep in mind Acer includes Gateway, Packard Bell, and eMachines, which help the total. Further, I believe Acer is a big beneficiary of netbook sales. Their Aspire One is pretty well thought of as these things go.

  6. Ah, ic. I hadn’t kept up with Acer’s accumulations and netbook sales.

  7. Very good points.
    However there are at least two points more to consider.
    First, the fact that it had a smaller drop than the rest of the industry when all the pundits in the press were commenting about the fact that Apple is too expensive; makes a very nice statement.
    Second, where do these numbers leave the new Microsoft commercial about Apple’s Tax?
    Apparently people prefer paying at getting a Vista powered computer… (netbooks run on XP!)

  8. Sorry:
    “…people prefer paying *to* getting a Vista powered…”

  9. Hmm, would you rather be selling $1,000+ computers and be down 1.2%, or be selling $300 computers and be up 12%?

    Yeah, I’d choose Apple’s spot any day. Let the idiot PC makers fight over zero-margin scraps.

  10. Am I the only one who would like to see apple lower their prices?

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