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Mac sales so far in '14 may signal share push

Gregg Keizer | Aug. 13, 2014
The Mac is poised to break Apple's annual sales record this year, according to an analysis of past sales trends as well as Wall Street projections.

Meanwhile, Brian Marshall, an analyst with the ISI Group, was more optimistic for the holiday selling season, with Q3 and Q4 forecasts of 4.8 million and 5.5 million, or quarter-over-quarter increases of 10% and 14%. His annual total of 18.9 million was 10.5% higher than actual sales in 2013.

Even though their numbers didn't agree — and were significantly below those Computerworld came up with its "average quarter-over-quarter gains" approach — each analyst's projection would mean new yearly records for the Mac.

Because those estimates anticipate Mac growth in the face of a still-down market overall, Apple should increase its share of systems shipped during 2014. Using IDC's forecast of 296.3 million personal computers to be shipped worldwide this year, Apple's slice would be between 6.2% and 6.6%, or as much as a full percentage point above 2013's.

Even so, the highest 2014 share estimate of 6.6% makes the Mac no more than a small fish in a big sea. But as other analysts have pointed out, Apple rakes in most of the profits recorded by personal computer makers. With a larger market share, the trend, and Apple's revenue and profit, would climb too.

In 2013, Apple booked $21.5 billion in Mac revenue and operating income of $5.9 billion; this year's sales estimates would generate between $23.2 billion and $24.7 billion, with operating income between $6.4 billion and $6.8 billion.

Most experts have attributed the first-half-2014 Mac sales bump to lower prices, particularly the 7%-10% cuts of April to the popular MacBook Air, the third reduction in 26 months.

"A hundred dollars here and there, sooner or later you're talking about real money," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research about the typical Apple price cuts.

Since Apple began cutting prices of the MacBook Air in June 2012, it's reduced prices between 8% and 25%, depending on the model. The more-popular 13-in. notebook has seen the biggest cuts, between 23% and 25%, while the lower-priced 11-in. has been discounted by no more than 10%.

Bajarin attributed some of the Mac's stronger sales to the lower prices, calling them "helpful." But he also argued, as he has before, that there are other factors in play.

As consumers — the Mac's true audience — consider upgrading some but not all of their older machines, the higher-priced Mac starts to look more attractive and even more economical. (Not every family member needs his or her own computer because each is already armed with a smartphone or tablet, or both.)

"They're willing to make an investment in a computer that will last a long time," Bajarin said, referring to the Mac.

"I remain convinced that, particularly with the changes in the landscape, the muted and confused response to Windows 8, that consumers are really looking at everything," said Bajarin. "There are a couple hundred million PCs that are four, five years old, and those owners are going to look around as they consider replacing them."


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