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Summary:

The good news is that preliminary estimates from both IDC and Gartner for the third quarter have Mac sales up and Apple ranked fourth in overall PC sales. The potentially bad news is that Apple will probably drop in ranking next quarter due to the increasing […]

The good news is that preliminary estimates from both IDC and Gartner for the third quarter have Mac sales up and Apple ranked fourth in overall PC sales. The potentially bad news is that Apple will probably drop in ranking next quarter due to the increasing popularity of netbooks.

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Nonetheless, despite more unemployment and less consumer spending, Apple managed moderate year-over-year growth in both reports. Although neither Gartner nor IDC ranks Apple in worldwide PC sales, the U.S. market accounts for about 40 percent of Macs sold, so the numbers are instructive of the overall health of the platform. Of the two reports, IDC  shows more robust growth for Apple during the last quarter.

According to IDC, Apple shipped some 1.64 million Macs in the third quarter, up from 1.467 million for the same period last year, a growth rate of 11.8 percent. That puts Mac share of the overall market at 9.4 percent, verging on double digits not seen since the halcyon days of the early 90s. However, like 1994, before the deluge of cheap PCs with Windows 95, there may be danger for the Mac from cheap PCs with Windows 7.

While HP sales were up only 3.2 percent, and Dell saw its sales drop 13.4 percent, both Toshiba and Acer are up, up, up. On the steroidal strength of netbooks, Toshiba sales jumped 37 percent. With an 8.1 percent share of the market, the company will likely pass Apple in ranking next quarter. As impressive as Toshiba was, Acer was even more so. With sales up nearly 50 percent, Acer has already passed Apple and now holds 11.1 percent of the US market. Gartner tells a similar story.

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For Apple, Gartner estimates 1.572 million Macs sold in the third quarter, up from 1.471 million for the same period last year, a 6.8 percent increase. Apple’s share of the U.S. market is now at 8.8 percent, barely up from 8.6 percent last year. While both Dell and HP declined slightly, once again Toshiba and Acer are the big winners in market share because of netbooks, Toshiba up 45.8 percent, and Acer up 61.4 percent — that’s like iPhone growth.

The question then becomes: is the lack of a MacBook mini hurting Apple? In terms of market share, definitely, but as Mikako Kitagwa of Gartner points out, “preliminary research shows consumer mobile PC ASPs declined more than 20 percent compared to a year ago.” Netbooks are clearly hurting HP and Dell, both in terms of market share and profit. In contrast, Apple is slowly making gains in market share and continues to profit handily from its portable lineup, which starts at $999. Apple’s move to counter Toshiba and Acer will likely be the long-rumored tablet device, anxiously anticipated for the first quarter of next year.

As for the quarter just ending, Apple will announce its official numbers on Monday. As always, TheAppleBlog will have the numbers and pretty graphs, as well obfuscating quotes from Apple executives about future products.

  1. I don’t understand the whole netbook appeal.

    Now, I realize that a very tiny number of people really need the smallest usable computer and, yes, a netbook makes sense for them. But most people buy them because they’re cheap.

    But I recently bought my daughter a 15″ Toshiba laptop with Core 2 Duo processor (2.33 GHz), DVD burner, discrete video chip, 2 GB RAM, 300 GB hard disk, Windows Vista for $379 (regularly $399, but $20 off at Best Buy).

    For a little less ($300), I could have bought an 8″ netbook with 1 GHz Atom processor, no optical drive. No thanks.

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    1. how about the battery life and portability of that laptop? I see a lot of students using netbooks these days because they have enough weight carrying books around all day and they need a laptop that can keep a charge for 6+ hours.

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    2. I also wanted to say it is hilarious about 5 minutes into class when all the large budget notebook fans turn on. With 20+ large notebooks in the room it sounds like the ventilation system turning on! =P

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  2. Netbooks aren’t there yet, but they will be. Is it better to wait until the technology provides for the equivalent power of a MacBook in a two-pound package or release a MacBook mini with caveats now?

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    1. you are so wrong. pull your head out of your butt

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    2. I love my Macs, but I have a netbook here at the house too. My wife uses it for email and surfing. Why wait? The price isn’t that big a deal. All the options are getting better and we’ll buy something new when we want it. A few hundred dollars isn’t a major decision anymore.

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  3. Netbooks = margin erosion

    MacBooks = profit

    –humble AAPL investor

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    1. Tom, although I am not an Apple shareholder, I agree. However, I think you would agree that what happened to Apple in 1995 was disastrous. Cheap PCs running a “good enough” Mac-like GUI utterly won out in the marketplace. When netbooks have as long a battery life as a MacBook at a third the price, and the Internet is the interface, that will be a problem for Apple. The iPhone is one way around that problem, but it’s not the alternative to the netbook. Maybe the tablet will be.

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  4. Netbooks niche is based on its balance of weight, size, battery life and performance. They rock! Who wants to haul around a 5 lb brick?

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  5. I guess that I’d rather be Apple than Acer or Toshiba in this scenario. Market share be dammed. The numbers of units shipped doesn’t represent the same results in terms of profit margin netbooks vs. MacBooks. Apple is clearly way ahead in their mandate to earn value for their shareholders. Along the way they’ve made some great products too.

    I think that they’re firing on all cylinders at this point.

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  6. first of all, those netbook providers are giving customers what they want. that will land them another sale down the road as the customers tend to be loyal to those that treat them well. Apple knows that people would kill for an apple netbook but it’s giving all of them the finger. the company obviously only cares about the $.

    I don’t get people using this stupid phrase “netbook niche”. are the numbers not speaking loudly enough for ya? netbooks are selling like hotcakes. everyone and their dog has one. How is that a niche?

    rant aside, I could’ve bought a decent lappy like the guy in the 1st post for the price of a netbook (dell mini9), but being a student, of whom there are thousands, the netbook just makes sense, especially when you are running OSX on it.

    get over urself apple-hardware fanboys.

    cute story the other week: getting ready to give a talk, I plugged in my hackintosh and the projector just kicked in. the guy before me was leaving telling me how the projector doesn’t work well. packing away his massive MBP, he was baffled because the projector didn’t register on his monster but worked right away for me. he had to have a tech guy come and save the day.
    netbook: +1
    MBP: 0

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  7. [...] to look like Apple was wise to abstain from joining the fray, at least in this regard (though not in others). No doubt Apple’s introduction of unibody aluminum construction, which requires far fewer [...]

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  8. [...] to look like Apple was wise to abstain from joining the fray, at least in this regard (though not in others). No doubt Apple’s introduction of unibody aluminum construction, which requires far fewer [...]

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