updated 01:46 am EDT, Fri May 9, 2014
Both Macs and iPad still showing growth trends overall
Beyond the unexpectedly-strong sales of the iPhone in Apple's fiscal second quarter, the second-biggest surprise of the March quarter was the strong performance of the company's Mac line. Beating industry trends, Apple sold 4.1 million Macs in the quarter, the same number it sold in the year-ago quarter and significantly better than the industry overall. Despite declines in other areas, a new study from Canalys again ranks Apple as the world's top "PC" seller, including tablets (from Apple and others) as "PCs," as consumers and businesses increasingly transition to tablets.
Together, Mac and iPad shipments for the quarter exceeded 20.4 million units, enough to account for 17 percent of the worldwide market. Apple CEO Tim Cook told analysts that Apple had actually sold nearly two million more iPads than were shipped due to back inventory reduction, making the decline in iPad sales from the year-ago quarter -- the first ever for the iPad -- less severe than initially reported.
Canalys analysts were also not put off by the unusual decline in iPad shipments. "Longer term, we do not believe Apple's Q1 performance points to a decline in the tablet category, despite growing pressure from larger-screen smart phones," said Senior Analyst Tim Coulling. "Consumers, and increasingly businesses, are continuing to adapt, with tablets acting as disruptors and finding their place as desktop and notebook replacements. Apple's ecosystem and the recent launch of Office for iPad should ensure it is well placed to remain a leader for some time."
Four years after its introduction, competitors have not managed to come up with a rival tablet that has been successful in competing directly against the iPad. While in developing markets, cheaper Android-based tablets are more popular than the iPad, no other single manufacturer has been able to ship both as many desktop or notebook PCs and a popular tablet together, leading to Apple's top ranking.
In part, the trend has been exacerbated by the worldwide decline in PC demand, which has affected other manufacturers more than Apple, but has played a part in the industry overall. PC sales of notebooks and desktops were down 10 percent across 2013, and are down six percent industry-wide thus far in 2014. The slightly better PC sales in the first calendar quarter were attributed to businesses finally upgrading from Windows XP, as Microsoft formally ended support for the 13-year-old operating system.
Canalys' figures put China-based Lenovo in second place, and well-positioned as Apple's main rival in combined tablet and PC sales, moving 15 million units that qualified it for 12 percent share. The figure represents a slight rise, but is based on shipments rather than actual end-user sales as Apple reports.
HP took third place exclusively on the strength of its leading PC shipments, as it no longer makes its own tablets, and Samsung struggled in fourth place, seeing declines in both its tablet and PC businesses. Dell was fifth in share, shipping just under 10 million tablet and/or PC units.
Tablets are playing an increasingly important role in shipments for most companies. In total, some 50.8 million tablets shipped in the first calendar quarter of 2014, and accounted for 41 percent of the combined PC market -- outselling notebooks, which accounted for 38 percent. Even with Apple's decrease in tablet shipments, overall tablet sales increased 21 percent from the year-ago quarter (though this was considered disappointing compared to average growth rates in previous years).
When tablets are included, "client PC system" shipments were clocked at 123.7 million units worldwide, a slight year-over-year rise. In another testament to the continuing trend of "the post-PC era," Canalys' previous data covering the holiday quarter of 2013 gave Apple a combined tablet and PC share of 19.5 percent worldwide share -- bigger, for that quarter, than HP and Dell together.