How did Macs defy the PC sales slump?

How did Macs defy the PC sales slump?

Summary: Just as the iPod became a gateway drug for the iPhone, which itself became the gateway drug for the iPad, iOS is set to become the platform that tempts people into the OS X ecosystem.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple
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When it comes time for Apple to unveil its quarterly earnings, it's tempting to focus on post-PC devices such as the iPhone and iPad, but the company's latest quarterly earnings breakdown suggests that we shouldn't ignore the Mac.

Over the last quarter, Apple sold 4.4 million Macs. While on the face of it, it doesn't sound like much compared to the 35 million iPhones or the 13 million iPads sold, it is still nonetheless significant.

First up, it pulls in some $5.5 billion in revenue, not far off the $5.9 billion pulled in by the iPad during the same period.

Those are significant numbers.

Second off, it's the part of Apple's business that saw significant growth, both compared to the earlier quarter and year-on-year. Compared to the previous quarter sales are up 7 percent, and up 18 percent compared to the year-ago quarter.

At a time when PC sales have ranged from – depending on how honest you want to be – lackluster to abysmal, Apple seems to have successfully bucked the trend.

Those are very significant numbers.

On the face of it, there's a lot working against Apple:

  • Macs are premium-priced products.
  • They run a niche operating system.
  • Macs fall mostly into pretty standard desktop and notebook systems.

So what's driving the growth?

According to Apple, the device driving the growth is the diminutive MacBook Air, which is very popular in schools. But the MacBook Air certainly isn't competing on price, with the 11-inch model starting at $899, and the 13-inch model starting at $999.

Then there's China, a country where Apple has seen Mac uptake grow by 39 percent.

Compare this to Chinese PC sales, which are expected to shrink by 5 percent.

There's also the halo effect from the iPhone and iPad. With almost 50 million of those units sold over the last quarter, and the vast majority of users being happy with their purchase, people are clearly looking at Mac and hoping that this platform will please them just as much.

The link between iOS and OS X is one that Apple is planning to capitalize on with future releases. iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite will both deliver features that will bring the two platforms closer together, and deliver features that hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users can only leverage if they have a Mac.

"These are features only Apple can deliver," said Apple CEO Tim Cook during the company's analyst conference call following the release of the financial results.

Apple is now clearly – and quite aggressively – leveraging the iOS to push OS X, and is capitalizing on the fact that almost 90 percent of iOS devices are running the latest version of iOS (compare this to Android, where less than 20 percent of devices are running the latest KitKat release). And since many of these integrations revolve around productivity, this push could not only put more Macs into homes that have iPhones and iPads, but it could very well build on the success that iOS has seen in the BYOD market and give OS X a huge helping hand.  

Just as the iPod became a gateway drug for the iPhone, which itself became the gateway drug for the iPad, iOS is set to become the platform that tempts people into the OS X ecosystem.

And if Apple is good at anything, it is with creating compelling ecosystems that people want to use.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple

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85 comments
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  • Are PC sales really as you claim?

    if looking at how things are classified by different survey companies, it appears that a MacBook Air is considered a "PC", while convertibles and hybrids running a "PC OS" is counted as a "PC".

    I'll be upgrading MY laptop at the end of the year, likely getting a hybrid of some type, so even though I'll be able to do everything on the hybrid I can on my laptop, will that purchase be counted as a PC sale, or a Tablet/Notebook sale?
    William.Farrel
    • need that edit button

      "isn't" counted as a PC.
      William.Farrel
      • Stupid article

        Id say it survived the sales slum by being extremely unpopular compared to the PC.
        badmanbob
    • If it's a surface ..

      ... it should be classified as a laptop. But that doesn't mean it will be - these anal-ists make up the rules as they go along.

      All you can be sure of is that their predictions will be wrong.
      Heenan73
    • Simple Answer for the PC Sales Slump.

      Unlike the latest PCs, Macs aren't burdened with Windows 8.
      Many of us who had long considered replacing our XP boxes took one look at those tiles & it's dumbed down, clunky GUI then either purchased an Android tablet instead &/or revived their old PC's performance on Linux.
      grump-a1eeb
      • You are stretching reality

        I don't see how Linux would be an equivalent experience as Windows XP for most users. Though it might be closer in experience than Mac OS X, but that isn't what this article is about.
        grayknight
        • Uuuh no, Macs are waaaaa better than Windows or Linux

          Just keep deluding yourself and disingenuously diminishing and minimizing self-servingly a great platform like OS X which can do anything your crummy security issues prone and hapless clunky beige box can do and more. Comparing software availability for Mac vs Linux paints a completely different picture from the one you are trying to present.
          PaulG53
      • Seriously... replacing an XP box with Android?

        Forgot all the Windows 8 love, do you really expect to be taken seriously with this comment?
        thekman58
      • ...or...

        Converted XP to a virtual machine running "sandboxed". With no updates coming for XP, just say "changes to disk image are never saved back to hard drive" and half your anti-virus problems are over before they start.
        Thanks to Virtualbox and VMWare, the underlying OS becomes (almost) irrelevant.
        alan_r_cam
  • Windows Phone sales doubled too

    But it hard to draw conclusions with minority platforms. I think Mac sales are flat. I read PC sales were better than expected due to XP replacement. My guess is that Windows 9 will bring back PC sales in the enterprise if what I read is correct about the cool desktop features that are comming.
    Sean Foley
    • Jam Tomorrow?

      The cry of the faithful for thousands of years. Granted the rate of decline of windows might be slowed if they patch the 1990s OS better than last time, but they won't 'win back' many, if any, who've defected to tablets, Chromebook, and even 3 or 4 to Linux. Get real.
      Heenan73
      • Depends on their experience in those other platforms

        Tablets are great, but do not replace a desktop computer. Linux, while useful, is not a capable replacement for most people. ChromeBooks are worse than just Linux, as the limitations can rival tablets in productivity.

        Corporations are slow in upgrading, but they will and are upgrading PCs to more PCs.

        Mobile devices are all the rage, and will be a much larger market than PCs in general, but they don't replace PCs directly.
        grayknight
      • It's real.

        I know one recent convert from osx to windows 8.1.

        That's out of two total mac users that I have know, unless we count the apple rep I used to work with. Who naturally still runs windows on a daily basis because his os of choice can't run everything he wants it to.

        I suppose you could also consider the guy who runs windows 7 almost exclusively on his 2014 retina MacBook pro as a 'mac user', but does that really count? Especially since all his other computers are windows 8.1 now, and the mac might have been too if it didn't refuse to work properly with anything later than 7...

        I do know a couple of people who run chromebooks, too... in addition to their windows computers.

        Point being you might need to not be so quick to jump to conclusions. Your opinion does not necessarily reflect that of everyone.
        dricht1
      • Comparitivly speaking, nobody has defected.

        Heenan73, right off the top your full of it because your making presumptive statements based on nonsense.

        Nobody in general terms has opted out of Windows for a Chromebook or Android tablet.

        Your a crackpot if you think so, you need a straight jacket.

        To put it as straight as I can, in a world of 7 billion plus people, sure, there are a smattering here and there who may have gone that route. Similarly there are various smatterings of all sorts of people changing allegiances from one brand or platform to another. The bottom line is in the big picture nothing has changed that you wouldn't need a microscope to see.

        I like numerous people I know work in areas that for years have been heavily populated with Windows desktops and laptops. So now we also see the odd iPad and/or Android or Surface show up, but nobody is doing replacement work with an iPad or Android device that they used to use a Windows box for. Nobody. I travel throughout such offices and I never see any place that suddenly has discarded their Windows computers. All my relatives, friends and acquaintances who used Windows computers still do, even if they now have non Windows smartphones and tablets, those devices DO NOT replace a Windows desktop or laptop.

        The ABM crowd can scream and dance and run down the street naked with their hair on fire claiming people are leaving Windows behind but it will never change the reality that they have not, and don't appear to even be thinking about it.

        There may be a slowdown of Windows computer sales, but only a business ignorant putz thinks that somehow translates into people throwing out their Windows boxes your crazy.

        We no as a complete fact that what indeed IS happening is that people are hanging onto their INCREDIBLY reliable XP Windows computers beyond time frames ever imagined 10 years ago, NOT giving them up.

        What is it about the ABM crowd like Heenan73 that makes them so manically opposed to Windows is causes them to shame themselves and talk like complete kooks and lie outright in front of everyone?
        Cayble
        • Sound words, at last!

          I would not have put it that harshly but I agree 100% :)

          Additional points:
          - since 4-5 years ago, computers have stopped evolving so fast you need to replace them every other year.
          - international crisis probably affects less those prone to be Apple customers.
          DamienP77
    • Re: Windows Phone sales....

      And just what does that have to do with the subject of the article other than attempting to promote a product that is performing poorly compared to iPhones and Android based phones.
      5735guy
      • It helps to illustrate...

        ...the media bias, considering this is an article trying to put a positive spin on a product that by your metrics is performing abysmally poorly compared to PC sales.
        dricht1
      • You figure it out. Its not that hard.

        5735guy, pretending like you don't understand why the comparison was made dosnt mean the rest of the world is so purposefully obtuse about Windows they shut off their brain as soon as someone makes a point about Windows that has a potentially positive spin.

        Why talk like an idiot. Im sure you have enough brains to figure it out if you make even a minimal effort.
        Cayble
  • hmmm

    US Mac sales declined with 1.6 million units of the 4.4 million total leaving 2.8 million from outside the US. The US market was 15.9 million total and worldwide PC market was 74.4 million

    http://www.legitreviews.com/idc-report-shows-pc-shipments-declined-q2-2014_146924
    http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/07/09/mac-sales-continue-to-slide-in-q2-as-overall-pc-market-rebounds
    Mac sales were 'great' @ 4.4 million or 5.9% of 75 million market.

    Windows phone is abysmal @ 8 million or ~22% of iPhone sales and ~7% of total smartphone market. Don't see US and world Q2 smartphone numbers posted yet or would have included them but they might be down from Q1.

    Rinse and Spin.
    greywolf7
    • For one single OEM out of hundreds to have 6% of the market?

      I think most manufacturers would take some satisfaction in that, in a competitive business with a lot of low priced products. There are only a few other PC makers with numbers like that (HP, Acer, etc.)

      Rinse and spin indeed!
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter