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Apple grows Mac sales by 18 percent on the back of the MacBook Air

Gregg Keizer | July 24, 2014
Sells 4.4 million Macs in the face of continued declines in the PC industry overall; sets June quarter sales record.

Apple on Tuesday said it sold 4.4 million Macs in the June quarter, the most ever for that three-month stretch, with a year-over-year growth rate the rest of the personal computer industry hasn't seen since early 2010.

The Cupertino, Calif. company sold 18% more Macs in the quarter than the same period the year before, with revenue from its oldest line accounting for 15% of the company's total sales of $37.4 billion.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the Mac numbers," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "The rumors of the death of the personal computer are, of course, highly exaggerated."

"No, I'm not surprised," countered Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, when asked for her reaction. "The PC business is almost all mid- and low-end, and that's not where Apple plays, so they'll continue to outperform."

Apple's Mac sales came in significantly higher than the forecasts of every Wall Street analyst polled last week by Fortune. The company beat the 3.9 million average of nearly three-dozen analysts by 12%; none of the 34 financial experts surveyed by Fortune had placed a bet higher than what Apple recorded.

"We had a record June quarter for the Mac, and demand has been very strong for our portables in particular," CEO Tim Cook boasted during the Tuesday earnings call.

And Apple's chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, trumpeted the fact that Apple has beaten the PC industry average in 32 of the last 33 quarters. The one quarter in the last eight years that Apple failed to match or beat the average was Q4 2012, when a production fiasco left it without iMacs to sell for several months.

For the June quarter, research firm IDC said global shipments of all PCs -- the bulk of them running Microsoft's Windows -- fell 2%; rival Gartner pegged shipments as flat compared to the year before.

Van Baker of Gartner attributed the increase in sales to the MacBook Air, Apple's lightest-weight and thinnest notebook.

"The MacBook Air is still a very strong product and people like it a lot," said Baker. "It puts them in a good position for continued growth."

Both Gottheil and Baker believe that Apple benefited from the minor rebound in the overall PC business last quarter, but for different reasons. Gottheil said that some consumers, faced with an aging Windows computer -- one likely bought before the global recession of 2008-2009 -- picked a Mac as a replacement. But Baker saw a different mechanism and motivation at work.

"Some of these [Macs], I think, went to people who had bought a tablet thinking that it would be a replacement for their PC," said Baker. "But then those consumers said, 'Tablet are nice and I like tablets, but a notebook is still a better idea.' In the developed economies, that's a dynamic that is operating."


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