Why the Mac Will Bounce Back

With Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) shares up more than 3% in a down market, Wall Street is mostly cheering last night's stellar second-quarter earnings report -- and with good reason.

Apple's total revenue rose 9% to $8.16 billion, and per-share earnings increased 15% to $1.33. By contrast, tech peers Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) both reported recent revenue declines.

However, neither of them sell the iPhone, which was the unsurprising catalyst for Apple's golden delicious report. Smartphone sales quadrupled to $1.52 billion, as the iEmpire and its partners moved 3.8 million handsets from January to March.

Better still, the iPhone's App Store is rapidly approaching 1 billion downloads. The PR value of that statistic is massive, even if it includes both free and paid software. Those sales say that digital stores being built by Google, Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) are lightweight by comparison, and perhaps even irrelevant.

Food for the recessionista
Fat App Store sales figures are also a good gimmick to disguise the lone problem with Apple's report: a drop in Mac sales. Desktop revenue was down 22% from last year's Q2, and portable revenue declined 12%. Unit sales fell 4% and 2%, respectively.

If investors don't seem to mind the Mac sales blight, that's likely because the iPhone is such a massive winner -- big enough to make an aging AT&T (NYSE: T  ) look good, even. Unfortunately, the Mac still accounts for more than a third of Apple's revenue.

Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer told investors during the earnings conference call that last year's big sales of the MacBook Air made for a tough comparison with last quarter. True. But we've also known since January that Mac sales were trending south as rivals' netbooks took their toll.

Thus, Oppenheimer is only half-right. Premium pricing is at least partly to blame for lower Mac sales. Shouldn't Apple address that? Stand-in CEO Tim Cook once again said no:

When I look at what is being sold in the netbook space today, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens. And just not a consumer experience, and not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly.

He's right. Consumers expect innovation from Apple, and they'll pay a premium to get it. Turn from that toward low-priced, above-average-but-not-spectacular computing gear, and consumers will be loath to go back when the recession ends. They'll revolt. Or worse, they'll buy from Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) .

Apple has an enviable product lineup, and with more than $28 billion in cash and investments, it boasts one of the richest balance sheets in Silicon Valley. It's under no pressure to shift strategy. Why distort a brand built over more than three decades to just wring out a few extra dollars in sales? That's nonsensical, short-term thinking -- and entirely unnecessary.

The Mac will be back, Fools. Just give it time.

Brrrrrrring! It's related Foolishness calling:

Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Dell and Intel are Inside Value picks. The Fool owns shares and covered calls of Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in IBM at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is proof that an apple a day keeps Wall Street away.


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  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2009, at 8:53 PM, marv08 wrote:

    "Why distort a brand built over more than three decades to just wring out a few extra dollars in sales? That's nonsensical, short-term thinking -- and entirely unnecessary."

    You seem to be the first one to actually get it. Most other articles I have seen today still suggest that jumping on the slide is the way to stay on top.

  • Report this Comment On June 10, 2009, at 8:04 PM, greenwave3 wrote:

    Macs have been and always will be technologically superior to PCs. If Apple ever decides to build business-ready models, Microsoft will cease to be a household name.

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