updated 07:30 pm EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Recently-refreshed MacBooks, wide iMac availability credited
According to new data from retail analyst NPD, revealed in a note to investors from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, US Mac sales are up 29 percent from the year-ago quarter. In part, the figures come from the fact that the just-redesigned iMac was severely constrained in the year-ago quarter, with extremely limited supplies largely missing the holiday buying season entirely. In addition, the company has recently refreshed most of its Mac lineup to Intel's latest "Haswell" chip.
The NPD data includes sales of Macs at retail from October and November, but does not include Mac sales outside the US. Munster predicts Apple will finish up the quarter with a 13 percent worldwide growth in Mac sales from the year-ago quarter. Also credited in the turnaround is Apple's recent refreshes of its two main Mac families: the MacBook line and the iMac, reports AppleInsider.
The MacBook Air was upgraded to Haswell chips in June, which staggered buyers and the industry alike with exceptional battery savings, resulting in a doubling of typical usage. Since then, Haswell has seen wide adoption in mobile computers of all types -- the iMac gained the chip in September, and the MacBook Pro range were upgraded in October.
While less important with desktops such as the iMac, the Haswell chip in conjunction with OS X Mavericks' own efficiencies such as App Nap, better plug-in management and compressed memory also brought improved performance to Apple's flagship desktop as well. The Mac mini, unusually, has not yet been upgraded to Haswell, while the forthcoming Mac Pro uses workstation-class chips and is not affected by the transition. The transition of users to notebooks and mobile devices has seriously eaten into both traditional and Mac desktop system sales, though the iMac is still thought to be the world's best-selling individual all-in-one desktop brand, and the Mac Pro remains a staple of the creative professional communities.
In late 2012, quality issues with assembling the new iMacs -- which used friction-stir welding, a high-quality display and other new techniques and parts -- prevented them from being widely available during the holiday season. While most Mac desktops are only marginally affected by Christmas-quarter buying, Apple believes it missed out on some 700,000 iMac sales in the quarter due to effective lack of availability of iMac models. CEO Tim Cook admitted later that in hindsight he should have delayed the launch of the redesigned iMac into 2013 to avoid disappointing buyers.