IDC Numbers: Apple’s Doing Just Fine, Thank You


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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