Apple will host its fiscal first quarter analyst call on Wednesday, and the company's naysayers will hear if the quarter's iPhone 5 sales were sufficient for the grossly overinflated expectations. However, I expect that Mac sales will likely hit yet another new mark, driven by switchers to the platform.
The company often tells analysts that, yet again, sales of Macs in the Apple Stores have been to customers new to the Mac. And certainly, that trend will continue, particularly with the new stores in China.
At the last earnings call in October, Timothy Cook, Apple's CEO, answered a question about China sales and mentioned the Mac. These sales have to be going new Mac users.
Yeah, Shannon, it's Tim. In terms of what we saw in China for Q4, revenue was $5.7 billion; that's up 26 percent year-on-year, Mac was up extremely strong, up 44 percent. As you recall, we launched portables for the first time in July, or the portables that we have previously announced in U.S. in June, we announced that in China in July.
At the conference call, Apple said that it had sold over 4.9 million Macs, which was a new record for the September quarter. Yes, it wasn't a proud result, being only 1 percent growth year over year. However, IDC said that the PC market was down 8 percent in the September quarter.
Cook also talked about cannibalization of Macs by the iPad platform. His answer was intriguing:
Customers will decide which one, or two, or three, or all four, that they would like and will buy those, and so we've learned over the years not to worry about cannibalization of our own products. It's much better for us to do that than somebody else to do it, and the far, far bigger opportunity here are the 80 million to 90 million PCs that are being sold per quarter. There are still over 300 million PCs being bought per year, and I think a great number of those people would be much better of buy[ing] an iPad or a Mac. And so that's a much bigger opportunity for Apple, and so instead of being focused on cannibalizing ourselves, and I look at it in much more that it's an enormous incremental opportunity for us. That's how I look at it.
This is all about the iPad's halo effect. This time, instead of being the iPod or the iPhone, it's the iPad. The Mac is bolstered by new users who are switching from Windows. Cook is right--switchers are coming into Apple Stores to look at the iPad, and leaving with a Mac and an iPad.
Of course, Redmond keeps helping Apple out with its chaotic strategies. The installed base aren't buying the Windows refresh pitch this time.
I am a witness to this switch. My neighbor just bought an iMac from our local Apple Store. He's loving it and signing up for classes. He said the machine was the most beautiful piece of technology he's ever owned. You could hear the pleasure in his voice.
Now, this guy has never owned a Mac. Ever. I carpooled with him when I worked at MacWEEK in the 1990s, and he was immune from the slightest hint of Mac inoculation. He was a proud PC DOS user and graduated to various flavors of Windows. He told me many times that he would "never, ever buy a Mac." But now, a new iMac sits on his desk.
I asked him what had happened? Why not buy a new Windows machine? He said simply that "back in those days, Windows worked. It's stopped working."
It's that simple. Now, we might have a debate about the definition of "work," but his confidence in the Wintel platform was evidently strained to the breaking point. And we all can agree that the new iMac is beautiful.
Even the most steadfast of anti-Apple/pro-PC users have proved susceptible to switching. Here's what my colleague Jason Perlow said in a wonderful rant in 2009. The post was titled Apple faithful: Arrogance is not a virtue, and why I will never buy a Mac.
So why won't I own a Mac? Well, for starters, I'm a systems integration expert by profession--as in what I do that pays my day to day bills--and the systems that I work with and architect are based on Windows as well as Mid-range/Enterprise platforms like Linux, VMWare, UNIX ,and mainframes.
The Mac, for all its insane greatness and cool factor, as well as having all the DNA to make it an enterprise platform, doesn't get a lot of traction in large enterprises, so there isn't a lot of motivation for me to own a system which has no bearing on stuff that I work with to make a living.
Additionally, most of the off-the-shelf tools which I work with that I need to do my job--Microsoft Office, Visio, and Microsoft Project are all Windows applications. Indeed, you can get Office for Mac, and you can even dual boot a Mac into Windows, but what would be the point? Why not just buy a PC?
Why would I incur a large personal expense on a Mac for home use when my laptop is corporate managed and issued to me as a company asset, and when all our line of business systems are Web and Java-based? If anything, I want my personal assets to be compatible with what I work with.
And if I am going to use an alternative platform to Windows as either a desktop or a server, I'll use Linux, because it has a huge library of Open Source software. Mac can use Open Source software too, but why bother if I can buy a commodity PC which I can purchase for a fraction of the cost?
What, never a Mac? Well, hardly ever. Or whatever.
Nowadays, even Mr. Never Perlow can feel good about recommending a MacBook Pro.