Depending upon which research firm you believe, preliminary estimates for Mac sales are either down or flat for the second quarter compared to last year. Either way, the netbook, or lack thereof, appears to be the problem for Apple (s aapl).
From the Associated Press, IDC analyst Bob O’Donnel notes that “people are focused on $600, $700 notebooks. Guess what Apple doesn’t have: any notebook below $999.” Looking at the numbers for the U.S., which accounts for roughly half of Mac sales, would seem to confirm the theory that netbook is surging.
Via Yahoo! Finance, IDC reports Apple’s market share for the second quarter at 7.6 percent, down from 8.5 percent last year. Still, that’s better than Dell (s dell), which is undergoing restructuring that looks a lot like demolition. In stark contrast, both Acer and Toshiba showed double-digit gains in market share due almost exclusively to netbook sales. Looking at the estimates from Gartner, the numbers are a little better for Apple.
Via AppleInsider, Gartner estimates Apple market share at 8.7 percent, a slight uptick from 8.5 percent last year. Again, Dell is in free fall compared to the relative weightlessness of Apple, and HP (s hpq). Acer rockets on, while Toshiba will almost certainly blast past Apple next quarter, unless Apple introduces a MacBook mini.
Don’t count on it.
At last quarter’s conference call, Tim Cook reiterated Apple’s position on the netbook.
When I’m looking at what’s sold in the Netbook market, I see cramped keyboards, junky hardware, very small screens, bad software. Not a consumer experience that we would put the Mac brand on. As it exists today, we’re not interested in it nor would it be something customers would be interested in the long term. We are looking at the space. For those who want a small computer that does browsing/email, they might want an iPhone or iPod touch. If we find a way to deliver an innovative product that really makes a contribution, we’ll do that.
What Cook didn’t say, but what also bears repeating, is that netbooks have cramped profits, too. Both Dell and HP have reported margins impacted by cheap portables cannibalizing higher-priced models. Apple’s margins are in the range of 30 percent, so there will be no MacBook mini, alas.
However, that “space” Cook refers to is almost certainly the perpetually rumored tablet, currently predicted for an October launch. While rumors also suggest a price around $800, it seems much more likely Apple would be looking to fill the gap in its lineup between the multitouch devices at $200-$400 and the Macbook at $1,000. This would put it at the price point O’Donnel mentions, $600-$700. If this turns out to be so, Apple’s market share in PCs will continue to stagnate or decline, at least as long as IDC and Gartner define what a PC is. With the advent of multitouch devices and the App Store, clearly Apple has other ideas on what the personal computer will be.