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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.

The increased sales of Macs in the first half of 2014 — 8.55 million or 6% more than the previous Q1-Q2 record — hints that Bajarin's thesis is already playing out, and perhaps getting a jump on Windows PCs. Many experts expect the rebound to continue as consumers reenter the market in the second half of the year.

Personal computer shipments, according to research firms IDC and Gartner, have stabilized or slowed their free-fall in 2014's first half, in part because companies are continuing to replace ancient Windows XP systems after that OS reached retirement in April. Those replacements will probably end this year, however; IDC and Gartner have predicted that consumers will then take up the slack.

Both Bajarin and Gottheil were bullish on the Mac for the remainder of the year. "I think that edging prices lower will continue to happen," said Gottheil of Apple's strategy. But that's happening across the industry. "In the Windows PC world, there's a lot of moves toward lower prices," he added. "The ASP [average selling price] curve is lowering at both the high and the low ends."

Neither analyst expects Apple to suddenly abandon its practice of playing in the premium-priced segment in an effort to grab market share. But each saw not only evidence of impending moves to juice sales, but ways Apple could, perhaps, reach Bajarin's seemingly-fantastic goal of a 20% share.

"I can see Tim Cook, who is a somewhat more flexible manager [than former-CEO Steve Jobs] saying, 'Build me a MacBook Air using something other than an Intel Core processor, let's see how it works,'" said Gottheil. "If it can provide the full Apple experience, why not sell it?"

Apple would have a chance to lower prices in its more traditional fashion — and thus increase its share — said Bajarin, if, when it eventually releases a Retina-quality-display-equipped MacBook Air, it retains the current models at lower prices.

"Apple's not going to ever be a low-cost leader, but the Mac could bleed into the $799 range — with the 13-in. MacBook Air, not the just the 11-in.," said Bajarin. "At that price, it could really start to squeeze the traditional sweet spot of Windows notebooks, which is in the $550 to $599 range."

That move would be reminiscent of what Apple has done in the iPad line, where when it launches new models, it keeps selling an older model after cutting the price $100. When Apple debuted the iPad Mini with Retina last year, for instance, it lowered the price of the original non-Retina Mini by $100 to $299.

But holding the price line of a Retina MacBook Air — and thus creating an umbrella under which the non-Retina Air could be placed — would be contrary to how Apple handled the MacBook Pro's transition to a higher-resolution display. In 2012, when it launched the first Retina MacBook Pro, Apple simply inserted a new model — a 15-in. MacBook Pro with Retina — into the line at a price $400 higher than the lowest-priced 15-in. stock model. The existing laptops' prices did not change.


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