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In US, PC makers manage small growth while Mac slips

updated 06:30 pm EDT, Wed October 9, 2013

Lack of major upgrades in Mac business seen hurting Apple's US share

Data from Gartner and IDC's mostly unhappy picture of the overall US desktop and notebook PC market includes unusual bad news for Apple's Mac business. Shipments of Macs are down from last year -- though the two analysis firms disagree over how much. Two potential Apple upsides to the generally-dismal decline in global PC shipments, however, are the iPhone maker's growing international share of PCs, and its (uncounted in these surveys) strong iPad business -- but on Mac shipments in the US, Apple is falling behind its rivals.

The company spent years growing its US share at a faster rate than its competitors, but a slowing pace of significant Mac upgrades has softened demand alongside a general consumer trend to move away from traditional desktops (and even notebooks) and towards tablets like the iPad for typical-tasks type computing. With 2013 nearly over, Apple has only updated its MacBook Air and iMac lines with new Haswell processors this year, and has yet to offer a "major" redesign on any of its Mac products.

This will change sometime in the next few weeks as the long-awaited and overhauled Mac Pro debuts, but it comes at a point where workstation-class and desktop PCs are seeing large drops in demand, making it unclear how well Apple will do with the expensive, top-of-the-line desktop solution. However, as a result of Apple's lowered priority for the Mac business in favor of its top sellers, most other US PC makers managed small increases in the US market while Apple dropped share.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has long predicted that tablets would eventually outsell PCs, and added that Apple doesn't mind "cannibalizing" some of its notebook sales to tablets, since its own iPad is by far the dominant product in the tablet arena. Were tablets counted as computers for the purposes of IDC's and Gartner's reports, Apple would likely again be seen to be outpacing the industry in US growth -- but on its "purely Mac" product line, the company's US fortunes are in a slight decline year-over-year.

IDC reports that US Mac sales slid 11.2 percent from the year-ago third calendar quarter, while Gartner believes sales are only off by 2.3 percent. Apple is still said to be the third-largest PC maker in the US, with around 13.4 percent (Gartner) or 11.6 percent (IDC) of the domestic market for new machines. The figures are down roughly a percentage point from Apple's share last year. Globally, Apple isn't in the top five PC manufacturers in either company's analysis -- and on a worldwide scale, the PC "recession" continues with alarming drops in overall PC shipment numbers.

Apple is likely to turn its Mac shipments around somewhat in the holiday season, with the refreshed iMac and MacBook Air already out alongside highly-anticipated upgrades to the MacBook Pro line and the new Mac Pro, all said to be coming before year's end. However, the company's efforts are likely only to help its own US Mac business rather than reverse the overall trend, which has been clear for some time: "traditional" desktop and notebook PCs are slowing turning into a professional and enthusiast market, while consumers increasingly migrate to ultrabooks, tablets and phones for mainstream computing needs.

Indeed, Apple itself may have put another nail in the coffin of mainstream "traditional" PCs with its introduction of the first truly 64-bit mobile processor, the A7. Calling it a "desktop-class" chip, many have interpreted Apple's rapid evolution of the processor and recent comments as a sign that it will someday move its Mac products to future versions of the A-series.

Such a move, likely years away, would give Apple a significant differentiator between it and its rivals, allowing the company to closely tailor processors to the individual needs of each class of computer as it does with its iPhone and iPad -- already measured as the fastest such devices, beating even quad-core processors and graphics systems found in its rivals. In the short-term however, the battery life and other efficiencies brought about by both the addition of the Haswell Intel processor and additional boosts from the forthcoming OS X Mavericks may help Apple reverse its US downward Mac trend by further strengthening its notebook line in future quarters.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bobolicious

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 08-15-02

    Could rosetta be playing a role...???

    In my case I have many more reasons to stick with what works than orphan easy access to decades of past work & sweat equity, and have stopped buying new (higher end) hardware for several years as a result... If rosetta was supported I might be running the latest rig, and looking forward to the next installment...

  1. GopherAlex

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-23-06

    No bobolicious, it's the Classic environment. I mean, why bother upgrading if I can't even run Photoshop 5.

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-20-01

    "If rosetta was supported I might be running the latest rig" - no, if Rosetta was supported, you wouldn't be running "the latest rig".

    You'd be running software from the stone age on a machine that's absolute overkill for it. If you like living in the past software-wise, at least be thorough and stick to the approriate hardware.

  1. mojkarma

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-13-11

    I don't know why it is a rocket science for some people to understand other peoples need, but role on this earth is not to live in a non stone age world. Put simply, there is specific, dedicated software for some areas like music, video, picture where small applications are not updated because their developers are not in the business anymore. But their programs do a terrific job.
    For example, in the music business there are file format converters which were not updated in the last 3 years and because of that a lot of music samples are provided in a format the current Mac and OSX cannot read. Because, we live in the "stone age". It is not my fault. But I wont blame the developer because he is out of business.
    So, if you don't understand that there are people beyond the usual "I mail, I surf on the internet, I write a message to my grandma" group, please, don't comment. The business world has some terrific programs which are highly needed but unfortunately are not updated because their devolopers are out of business. Do not blame me, the user for being trapped in the "stone age". Have a little respect to other peoples need and that not all people think like you. I dont't give a shit about that stupid "we have to move on every year" paradigm. I work with the computer. And my work doesn't evolve as fast as some computer developer think it has to evolve.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    mojokarma: it's been my experience that people who are in "the stone age" choose to be there NOT because there is no alternative, but because they are lazy, cheap or just stubborn. They don't bother to find out about or acknowledge viable alternatives, won't admit they are generally better (or at least way faster), and just don't want to change their workflow.

    That's fine for a while ... really, it is ... but at some point you start to look silly. My dad swore there was never a better spreadsheet than VisiCalc, but eventually he had to move on (and frankly, he was wrong anyway).

    Yeah, there may be some VERY niche cases where a developer went out of business and there really is nothing ... but as a power user with very diverse needs and making money with my Mac for the past 30 years, if there were users who were being underserved ... markets tend to spring up to cater to that (unless there are, in truth, like six people in that "market"). So I'm not buying the "can't be helped" line for keeping one's head in the sand ...

    I can think of plenty of very good reasons not to update to the latest [whatever] on day one ... but if you're still whining more than four years later, the PEBCAC as they used to say ...

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    Everyone's sitting here complaining about Rosetta and the Classic environment, and I just wanna know when Apple's gonna give me back my 68k compatibility?! I HAVE CLARISWORKS DOCUMENTS TO WORK ON, DAG-NABBIT!

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    i am still waiting for my MacPaint to work on my 2.26GHz Intel Mac! Hello, Apple. Get your act together!

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    I still have my old G5 running Nikon Camera Control Pro connecting to my Nikon D5000 for photoshoot.... still working, still pumping. Whereas my newer Intel Mac uses the latest Photoshop CC to edit and retouch. What's missing is Macintosh SE to do my MacPaint.

  1. bobolicious

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 08-15-02

    If one looks at, for example, many of the DOE energy modelling programs developed by the US government with the almost bankrupt tax dollars, they are all still generally only available in XP... Combine that with the high level of technical training required to use them, the investment required in recoding & retraining, the lifecycle of building projects and the buildings themselves, and the fact that they do the job well and don't particularly benefit from a W7+ interface, I might ask why should scuch be abandoned & forced into an upgrade cycle churn, or that all the client investment in such building information modelling should be orphaned over the life cycle of a building, which may be longer than the lifespan of the sarcastic critics... Should they all be rewritten to work on the Mac or iOS ? With tax dollars?

    Also is there such a low value in and of history, and a seeming lack of understanding that there might be project work that spans years or decades rather than the next blog article or magazine cover edit? Undoubtedly there are many benefits to moving forward with new software in many areas, but I also ask if there is a poverty in orphaning digital history every 5 to 10 years - it would seem to serve the economics of the corporations - but a better design might actually universally embrace content...? What benefit do the critics get from maligning support for legacy access? Is it simply an unflappable belief that newer is always better - dogmatic vision - a machismo in being current - a will to power ? A fear of cost for support of virtualization being built into the OS, from a company that does not know what to do with its excess cash ?

    As far as lazy goes there is the issue of getting paid for the migration work, or paying someone to do the work, and then the accuracy of the translation, especially with advanced technical work or perhaps even fonts? Or perhaps in some cases simply no option, like web hosted QTVR, or even simply in the case of a developed integrated AppleWorks database for a small company (the lack of template integration), or with Bento the lack of sync ability in FMP migration with iOS... I can vouch for the challenge of moving data from Symantec ACT! and Powertalk, both sold & promoted by Apple. It was both stressful & very costly, mostly in terms of time. The easiest solution was to move to a PC ? Open source tends to have that benefit too. This article is about declining sales of Macs, no?

    Apple's most flagrant example recently may be iBooks Author, which can only access content from the current OS forward... Historical content is inaccessible unless migrated... Is that good design for authoring ? I must be missing how that makes the work of digital multimedia authoring easier, faster more accurate or more intuitive when content is by definition historical...?

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