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The Mac didn’t do as bad as the PC last quarter, but it’s stopped growing

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If you’re looking for positive news in the world of desktops and laptops, the story of the Mac is about as good as it gets — and even that story is not that great. For the second straight quarter, Apple, which has regularly reported industry-beating growth rates over the past few years, again saw its Mac sales stall.

Apple(s AAPL) said it sold 3.95 million Macs during its second fiscal quarter, which is ever-so-slightly below the 4.01 million it sold a year ago. That followed its fiscal first quarter sales of 4.1 million Macs, which were down 22 percent from the 5.2 million sold a year prior.

Quarterly Mac sales

Now, the Mac’s quarter seems fantastic when compared to the global PC industry: between January and March, IDC found that just 76.3 million PCs shipped worldwide. That’s a 14 percent decline over a year and made for the worst quarter for the PC market since IDC started counting in 1994.

While Windows-based PC sales have been dismal for several quarters, if not years, the last two quarters have been an aberration for Apple. Before then the company had consistently seen the Mac grow faster than the broader PC market, and CEO Tim Cook has predicted for many quarters on end that PC sales were being replaced by iPad sales.

It’s looking like this is now happening to Macs as well. Cook said of the PC industry, “it’s the largest decline I can remember” while pointing out that “at the same time we sold almost 20 million iPads.” But he admitted that the Mac is not immune.

Still, he tried to put a positive spin on things:

That said, I don’t think this market is dead or a bad market by any means. I think it has a lot of light to it. We’re going to continue to innovate. We think huge growth in tablets may wind up benefiting the Mac. It pushes people to think about the product they’re buying in a different manner.

But a careful listen to other comments about the quarter’s Mac sales made by his colleague show that he probably shouldn’t sound so happy. CFO Peter Oppenheimer noted on the same earnings call that the nearly 4 million Mac sales included “strong desktop sales” but those were “offset by weaker portable sales.”

Strong desktop sales signals that Apple has finally caught up with demand for its new iMac models —  they debuted in October, but supply chain problems meant they didn’t hit store shelves until early December — and that’s good. But desktop sales have not been a consistent relied-upon source of growth for Apple; the Mac’s growth in unit sales has come from the popularity of the MacBook. That sales of notebooks were “weaker” this quarter is potentially worrisome for the overall trajectory of the Mac over the next few quarter when iMac sales drop back to normal levels, given that desktop sales have been on the decline for years across the broader PC market.

So while Apple is still managing to do better than most of its Windows PC brethren, it appears that, if not for problems Apple had during the holiday quarter, Mac sales during this quarter could have seen an even bigger drop in growth.

9 Responses to “The Mac didn’t do as bad as the PC last quarter, but it’s stopped growing”

  1. Apple’s “problem” is that it *already owns* most of the profits in the global phone market, the tablet market, in the mp3 player market, and in the music market. And, Horace D. reckons, nearly half of ALL the profits in the PC market. So not much room to grow!

    All they can do to expand income is to create or move into new markets: wearable devices, TV, and video Entertainment delivery etc.


    Technology era calls for replacement of iPads from this desktop. Apple is confronting challenges which it will overcome sooner or later and Mac is Apple one of greatest launches.

  3. Shelby Lee

    I just don’t get it! AAPL’s Tim Cook agrees to hire more workers in the United States, bringing some manufacturing jobs back home. President Barack Obama praises Cook during the State of the Union speech for this move. Of course this is going to reduce the gross margins and no one saw this coming? Why isn’t the President of the United States buying AAPL stock now? Where’s all the democrats on this issue? Who’s selling on this news?

    Hey Mr. Cook, please do all us AAPL investors a favor now…go ahead and ship all that work back overseas and get the gross margins back over 40%. Let the chips fall where they may on who or what is hurting the economy more. My 401K and IRA will thank you for it!

    AAPL is the most widely held stock in the world. So I feel it’s better to lose a few hundred manufacturing jobs in the U.S. in favor of helping out the hundreds of thousands of U.S. investors. Not to mention the consumers who will once again benefit from a lower cost item.

    • Geri O

      I certainly hope that your comments are tongue and cheek. For as conservative and capitalism-oriented as I am, I find these comments typical of the “greed” syndrome that low-info voters are rallying against (with some egging-on from certain politician that would benefit from such feelings). What benefit is a lower cost of the item is the masses are out of work and can’t afford it?

      There is a balance of this situation somewhere and for as smart as we are, or once were anyway, it is ridiculous that we can’t find it.

      Geri O

  4. Frank A NYC

    I have a 3 year old Mac that works great. I will however not buy another one. Not because I dislike apple or their products. On the contrary, I will eventually replace it with a laptop as a MB air will satisfy all of my needs. My ipad takes care of anything left over.

    • Tony Morrall

      I have a 3 year old 27″ iMac (my 3rd iMac), and I have now saved enough for a 15″ Retina MBP. I’m just waiting now for an updated model, and I will be making the purchase.
      I was persuaded by the quality of my wife’s 13″ Retina. I also have an iPad, but would love to get the iPad Mini, but again, I am waiting for a Retina version. Notice the links here …. the display. I compared the new 21.5″ iMac with a current Retina, but it was no contest.
      So come on Apple, I have over three grand (UK pounds) to give you !

  5. Michael Crabtree

    I love my iMac. Apple has done a good job on leveraging many positive functions, like FCP X and Motion 5 for movie editing and some general special effects. What is lacking is a comprehensive and powerful special effects package. I use Blender 3-D because it is really terrific, plus it’s free. There is no way I can afford a Maya or Aftereffects package. Just in the last year the ability to do motion tracking and integrate special effects has come a long way. Motion is okay, but it doesn’t offer the complete environment like a Blender.