updated 02:40 pm EDT, Mon May 20, 2013
Some analysts had predicted a slight downturn
A new report from market analysts NPD Group indicates that US Mac sales for the month of April were about even with the same month last year, which some analysts see as a positive sign for Apple. However, NPD's data -- which is normally considered reasonably accurate -- only covers US sales, meaning the higher percentage of Mac sales overseas is making meaningful predictions difficult.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a note to investors that the fact that Mac sales were flat can be interpreted as a slightly positive sign for the iPhone maker, as he had previously believed that sales would be down as US Mac sales were in March -- about eight percent off a year ago. Overall, Munster still believes worldwide Mac sales will be down five percent year-over-year.
However, while NPD saw US Mac sales down eight percent in March, Apple's later official worldwide numbers showed an increase of seven percent for that month -- suggesting that worldwide sales may make up for some remaining softness in the US market. New models of Macs would assure more growth, but any expected announcements of new or refreshed products will likely come during the Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) in mid-June -- too late for the products to have much impact on the June quarter.
Ironically, the biggest factor that is driving down Mac sales is the same factor affecting the PC industry -- consumers' increasing use of the iPad and iPhone to handle day-to-day computer tasks, leaving the "big iron" of a desktop or even a laptop for duties better suited to the horsepower, keyboard and other advantages of a traditional computer. As a result, "real computers" are lasting longer, and buyers are delaying purchases as they are able to stretch the useful life of a given computer.
It now appears likely that a refreshed MacBook Air (and possibly similarly-bumped MacBook Pro models, both with new Haswell processors) will appear at or around the WWDC, and there may even be news of the revamped Mac Pro promised by CEO Tim Cook for sometime this year. Munster has previously said he expects Apple to produce some kind of branded HDTV set this year, though if such a product exists it would likely be positioned for the holiday buying season.
Because the company's profits now mostly come from the iPhone and iPad lines, he also sees the main catalyst for profit growth in Apple for 2013 coming from the long-expected "low cost" iPhone and new regular iPhone model, presumably dubbed the "iPhone 5S."