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Apple Holds PCs Back, Again

The tables have turned on Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) . The company that was making computers and laptops practically obsolete with the introduction of the iPad three years ago is now the only major player not growing domestically. Apple's tablet may have sent the PC industry reeling, but now a dip in popularity of its own Macs finds Dell (UNKNOWN: DELL.DL  ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , and Lenovo having the last laugh.

Apple's tablet held PCs back in recent years, but now Apple's revolution is only holding itself back.

Industry tracker IDC is out with its latest quarterly update on PC shipments. It's an estimate -- only the PC makers themselves will make it official when they report in the coming weeks -- but IDC's typically close to the mark in its snapshots. 

Globally, PC shipments fell 7.6%, making this the sixth consecutive quarter in which PCs have posted year-over-year declines. Closer to home, the news was substantially better. IDC's research shows that stateside shipments only slipped 0.2% during the third calendar quarter.

Now let's pick on the Mac daddy.


Q3 2013


Q3 2012




4.439 million


4.291 million




3.479 million


3.402 million




1.906 million


2.146 million




1.720 million


1.368 million




1.123 million


0.982 million




3.760 million


4.268 million




16.426 million


16.456 million



Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, Oct. 9, 2013.

Of the five largest PC manufacturers, Apple was the only one going the wrong way. Let's go one step further. Let's back Macs and MacBooks out entirely. Take Apple out of the mix, and PC shipments in this country went from 14.31 million during last year's third quarter to 14.52 million this time around. Ex-Apple, PC shipments in this country climbed 1.5%.

That's great news for the PC industry, though seeing Lenovo and Toshiba as the biggest gainers suggest that a lot of the growth is coming from cheaper laptops. Hewlett-Packard and Dell have also had to play limbo with lower prices to woo casual PC users from going with a tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard. In other words, Apple may be losing market share in terms of shipments, but it should fare better in terms of revenue share.

The strong gains outside of Apple are still impressive. It validates Hewlett-Packard's pop on Wednesday, after CEO Meg Whitman offered a rosy view of her turnaround strategy for the PC giant. Dell shareholders may now feel as if they were robbed, getting cashed out just as the the outlook improves. However, let's see if this kind of uptick outside of Apple is sustainable or profitable.

There may be signs of life here, but let's wait for the pulse readings. 

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 7:05 AM, portfoliodoc wrote:

    Your article totally misses the pent up demand for the new Mac Pro, a totally redesigned product that was announced with great fanfare by Apple that has not been released. I certainly would not purchase an older model. They're designed to hold an array of internal drives and peripheral cards, most of which have been replaced by external devices. Please update this article after the new Mac Pro is released.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 7:13 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    PC sales growth is down since the iPad was introduced. looking at one quarter of data is too shortsighted. A quarterly growth of 1.5% is nothing to be excited about. And your anti-Apple bias is again coming though loud and clear.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 7:36 AM, ZeusZeus wrote:
  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 8:04 AM, AnkurVarsheny wrote:

    Its not much important how much you sell. It's more important on how much you make out of selling it.

    I think Apple is doing just fine.

    Other manufacturers aren't making any money with those low end things.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 8:12 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    Ok .. 3.5 % whatever ..... Too much focus on one quarter's growth .. year over year PC shipments are down nearly 10% and have been negative for awhile. All of it was driven by the tablet growth, which happened to be started by Apple -- a fact usually glossed over by the anti-Apple analysts.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 8:26 AM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    I don't think this data point re Mac sales makes a trend. The iMacs were *just* refreshed in September, and it's common knowledge that new versions of the MacBook Pros and the Mac Pro are imminent. My sense is that a lot of potential Mac buyers are waiting for the new models. (I was one of those folks myself. I held off on a needed new computer purchase until the Haswell iMacs came out a couple of weeks ago.)

    Let's get a quarter or two of Mac sales data with the refreshed models (especially the Mac Pro) before we get too excited.

    John Rosevear (long AAPL since 1981)

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 8:33 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    Good point John .. I am holding off on a new Mac as well .... a lot of people do the same w/ iPhones -- waiting for the next model to come out. With Apple I think one needs to look at 2-3 years to get a sense of any product line -- that is their typical development cycle (the iPhone took nearly 3 yrs for R & D).

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 8:41 AM, deasystems wrote:

    Contrary to the assertion made in this article, IDC is *never* close to the mark in its estimates, especially in those it makes for Apple.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 11:52 AM, daveshouston wrote:

    I would normally buy a new Mac every year. However, this 15" MacBook Pro with retina display and solid state storage rather than conventional disk drive is so outstanding that I don't feel the usual urge to upgrade. Also, Apple hasn't announced a major upgrade.

    The only thing I can see on the horizon that will likely motivate me to upgrade would be the new WiFi standard that promises to really speed up WiFi. That could be a reason to upgrade.

    One thing is for sure. Mac users are not switching to cheap plastic Windows PCs.

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