In other words, there's no chance of a turn-around in the business's 15-quarters-and-counting decline until 2017 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, although both IDC and Gartner forecast that Apple's share of the personal computer market increased in the September quarter over the same period in 2014, they disagreed about whether the Cupertino, Calif. company would match unit shipments of last year.
IDC predicted that Apple shipped 5.3 million Macs in the quarter for a 7.5% share of the PC total, up from 2014's 6.9% share. Gartner's estimate had Apple with a shipment of 5.6 million Macs, or 7.6% of the total, also up from last year's 6.9%.
With Apple stating last year that it sold 5.5 million Macs, IDC's projection would mean a 3.4% year-over-year decline, an unusual spot for Apple, which has grown Mac sales for seven consecutive quarters even as the rest of the industry shrunk. The last time Mac sales contracted was the September quarter of 2013, the final quarter of a four-quarter downturn.
Gartner was a bit more optimistic about Mac shipments, betting on 5.6 million, a 1.5% bump over 2014.
Loverde admitted that forecasting Mac shipments is tough. "There's a significant margin of error in our Mac numbers," Loverde said, citing Apple's secrecy -- and the closed mouths of its suppliers -- that make predictions more difficult than for many Windows PC OEMs. "To be frank, there's a limited amount of information out there [about Mac sales]," Loverde added.
For example, last year at this time IDC underestimated third-quarter 2014 Mac sales by about 11%. If its margin of error was similar this year, it would put Apple up 7% for the period with shipments around 5.9 million.
IDC had Apple in the fourth OEM spot in global shipments for the quarter -- behind behemoths Lenovo, HP and Dell, each which ships about twice the number of personal computers as does Apple -- moving Apple up one place from this time last year. Gartner also listed Apple in the fourth spot.
Apple will disclose its third-quarter Mac sales on Tuesday, Oct. 27, prior to its 2 p.m. PT conference call with Wall Street to discuss earnings.
PC shipments declined again in the September quarter, dropping nearly 11% as an unprecedented 15-quarter contraction continued. Windows 10 provided little if any bounce to shipments, as Microsoft focused on getting the free upgrade into users' hands. Click on image to enlarge. Data: IDC
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