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Despite Growth, Apple Slips a Spot in U.S. Computer Sales Rankings

Two separate studies have been released ranking sales of computers in the U.S., and both agree that Apple (s aapl) has fallen one place compared to results from the same quarter last year. In both studies, one of which comes from research firm IDC and one of which comes from Gartner, Apple placed fourth in Q4 2008 results, and had dropped to fifth during the Q4 2009 period.

IDC found that Mac sales in the U.S. had climbed by 31 percent compared to last year, but that despite that strong growth, sales hadn’t kept up with increases in the industry at large. Cheap Windows machines helped create a banner year for the PC side of things. Gartner came up with slightly less impressive numbers for Apple during the quarter, with a growth rate of 23 percent.

That’s quite a difference, and represents a 40,000 machine gap between the figures found by the two companies. It’s a large enough gap to affect whether Apple falls under or above the average gain among all companies listed in the rankings. By comparison, PC makers HP (s hpq) and Toshiba had incredibly strong years, growing sales by 45 percent and 71 percent respectively.

In a quote from Computerworld, Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa explains what Apple’s doing wrong to miss out on the promising industry numbers, and its a tune we’ve all heard before:

The U.S. market last quarter continued to be very price driven. If a company is not in the low-priced market, it’s absolutely difficult for it to increase market share. And Apple did not do as well as others in share because of its prices.

Netbooks and cheap laptops are flying off the shelves, in other words. That being the case, the growth numbers might not mean as much to Apple as they might otherwise. If companies like Toshiba and HP are making their gains on the backs of underpowered machines of questionable build quality, and ones that might also have lower profit margins than Apple’s line, then it might not be growth that Cupertino is interested in. I maintain that we’ve yet to see the fallout of selling so many cheap machines so quickly. Wait a couple years till they start showing significant failure rates, then we’ll see how long-term growth is affected.

The general recovery of the PC industry is good news for Apple, though, even if it didn’t reap as many of the direct benefits as some of its rivals. The bottom line is that people are once again willing to spend money on consumer electronics, and computing devices specifically. The climate is a much better one in which to introduce a tablet than it has been in recent memory.

8 Responses to “Despite Growth, Apple Slips a Spot in U.S. Computer Sales Rankings”

  1. The indoctrination kit for the impressionable:

    1. Apple
    2. Obama
    3. Global Warming
    4. Democrats are good, Republicans are bad (both parties are bad)
    5. Human life has no value, better to have empty planet (i.e., anything coming out of Hollywood, Newsweek, NYT, LA Times, and Times)

    No wonder the country is being raped by crooks.

  2. I agree with “Mike” who cares about market share as long as you are selling something that is profitable, and The thing here is that apple DOESN’t want to rule the computer market, the same way Ferrari DOESN’T want to rule the Car industry there are dozens of PCs/Netbooks out there that offer you a lower price than a macbook but as I saw personaly before turning to mac, The also use the cheapest parts possible to lower these prices. All of that publicity over 120 GB HDD they dont tell you they are using 5400 RMP Ide disks or 600MHZ Ram instead of apple’s 1066 Mhz put those low-end components in a macbook and apple could sell them at 800 bucks.

  3. I don’y believe it’s all price. I personally would have bought an iMac if they were available with a matte screen. instead <i just bought a new Viewsonic monitor to use with my mac.

  4. Michael G.

    Let’s not mix profits with share. I think Apple cares far less about share as long as it remains strongly profitable. They are selling more machines than the last quarter at sustainable price points. I don’t think they care as much about losing a few fractional percentage points to their low margin counterparts. If share is all you need, Dell could sell all its computers for $1 and watch its share skyrocket. But it probably would shutter its facilities before shipping all those units.

    What’s fascinating (and to me the real story) is that given an extremely tight (historically so) economy, Apple has managed to not only buck the race-to-the-bottom-pricing trend, but also thrive. I think 23%-31% growth in this economy is pretty remarkable. This brings up two questions for me:

    What if … Apple actually begins to compete on price?

    What can we expect … when world markets recover from the Great Recession?

  5. These studies are meaningless now.
    Apple and many other companies make all kinds of “computing” devices. The day of the PC as weathervane for companies like Apple or Dell, et al is over. Computers are, and will be increasingly so, everywhere!
    Apple knows this, thankfully.

  6. “I maintain that we’ve yet to see the fallout of selling so many cheap machines so quickly. Wait a couple years till they start showing significant failure rates, then we’ll see how long-term growth is affected.”

    Yes Darrel, you must be right, because your version of reality is like (a cartoon edition) that of the Apple execs telling everyone that blu-ray is a bag of hurt and that they can’t build a machine under 800 dollars (it was 800 wasn’t it?)… just sad. It’s like they’ve decided to close their eyes very tightly, put their hands over their ears and start chanting “U can’t touch this”

    I really hope they can break out of the vicious circle of make-belief where they think they can rule the computing business with machines costing over 1k usd.