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U.S. Mac shipments shrink 56X more than industry average

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 14, 2013
IDC estimates Mac Q3 shipments fell 11.2% year-over-year; PC average was just -0.2%

Mac shipments in the U.S. during the third quarter fell at a dramatically steeper rate than that of sales of other PCs, including those powered by Microsoft's Windows, IDC said Wednesday.

According to the research firm, Apple's personal computer shipments in the United States slumped 11.2% year-over-year to 1.9 million machines. The PC business as a whole contracted just 0.2% as sales picked up more momentum than had been expected, with all four of the remaining top 5 -- HP, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba -- posting positive growth numbers for the quarter.

Apple's decline was 56 times that of the industry average.

Why the plummet in growth?

"Mac unit sales are correlated to product launches, so when Apple ships a new [Mac], sales zoom up," said Rajani Singh, an IDC analyst, in an interview Thursday. And when Apple doesn't, sales take a dive.

Especially when compared to a quarter like the third of 2012. Apple sold its second-highest number of Macs ever during the span that ended Sept. 30, 2012, largely on the back of the Retina-equipped 13-in. MacBook Pro notebook, which debuted in June 2012.

In 2013, Apple had no comparable new system to offer consumers. Instead, it refreshed the MacBook Air, the lighter machine that's typically outsold by the MacBook Pro, with Intel's Core processor, code named "Haswell."

Customers and pundits had hoped that Apple would instead add a higher-resolution display, what Apple dubs "Retina," to the Air.

Apple also revamped its all-in-one iMac desktop line during the quarter, but did so Sept. 24, just days before the quarter ended.

Gartner, IDC's rival, also estimated U.S. Mac sales as lower than last year, although its numbers were wildly different. Gartner said Mac shipments were down 2.3% to 2.2 million, compared to a U.S. industry average increase of 3.5%. The only thing the pair of researchers agreed on was that Apple was the only one of the top 5 computer makers to lose ground in the third quarter.

Apple keeps selling Macs, but the personal computer, once its largest revenue generator, has been relegated to almost an afterthought, said Singh. "Apple has really moved from a personal computer-making company to a phone-making company," Singh said. She pointed out that in the second quarter of this year, 51% of the company's revenue was produced by the iPhone, compared to just 18% by the Mac.

Neither IDC or Gartner publish shipment estimates for Apple worldwide. But other analysts have placed similar downbeat bets for the quarter globally.

In a recent note to clients, Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. forecast an 18.4% decline in Mac unit sales year-over-year. Meanwhile, another Wall Street analyst, Brian Marshall of ISI Group, said worldwide Mac sales would contract by 16.3% in the third quarter.


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