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Mac on track for yet another record quarter

Apple (s aapl) is set to break records yet again with Mac sales in its current quarter, according to figures released Monday by research firm NPD. Sales information gathered by the company showed Mac sales up 19 percent for October, which Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks will result in Apple selling 5.1 to 5.3 million Macs for the quarter ending in December.

Last quarter, Apple sold 4.89 million Macs, which was itself a company record, and represented 26 percent growth in sales compared to the same quarter last year. If Apple hits the numbers Munster is predicting, growth would be between 23 and 28 percent year-over-year for the current three-month period, which covers the holiday shopping period.

In recent years, the focus of Apple’s business in terms of profit and in terms of media attention has largely shifted to the iPhone and iPad, but the consistent growth of the Mac platform (at home and in many key international markets, including Europe and China) mean that Apple’s computer business still makes up a key component of the company’s overall revenue picture. The Mac’s stalwart performance is even more impressive when you consider that it’s doing so well in an industry that has lately seen inconsistent overall business, with stagnating sales growth in the low single digits, and even shrinking shipments in some cases.

The Mac remains strong even as the iPod, another of Apple’s perennial successes, wanes; NPD says iPod sales are down about 18 percent year-over-year, which is still less of a drop-off than Wall Street is anticipating for the quarter. The iPod business is seen as likely to dry up as people move towards multi-function devices like the iPhone rather than standalone media players.

Last quarter, the Mac was the only category to exceed analyst expectations, while all others either met guidance (the iPad) or underperformed (the iPhone). The Mac also has the advantage of playing in a relatively set field; potentially industry-shaking R&D efforts appear focused more in other categories, like smartphones and tablets. Since the PC industry seems somewhat creatively stagnant, Apple dropping prices and making cutting-edge tech like the MacBook Air available to a much broader audience is clearly resonating with customers.

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