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Apple Inc. Confirms PC Market Share Loss

By Ashraf Eassa – Jul 29, 2016 at 9:15AM

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The tech giant reported a contraction in Mac unit shipments that was worse than what the broader industry suffered.

Image source: Apple. 

A little while back, research firm IDC reported that Apple (AAPL 4.86%) had lost market share in the personal computer market last quarter. On the company's July 26 earnings call, management gave figures that appear to corroborate that report.

According to Apple CFO Luca Maestri, the Mac maker shipped just 4.3 million Macs during its fiscal third quarter, a decline of 10.42% from the year prior. If we assume IDC's report that worldwide personal computer sales dropped just 4.5% in the most recent quarter is correct (Apple cited IDC's figures, so they're probably correct), it's obvious that Apple lost unit share.

Apple's explanation for this drop

"In addition to the overall market slowdown, we faced a very difficult [comparison] to the year-ago quarter," Maestri explained to investors.

He elaborated further, noting that in the prior-year period, Apple introduced both a new MacBook Pro as well as a new iMac. It would seem that the company's introduction of the updated 12-inch MacBook back in April wasn't enough to give overall Mac sales a boost.

Apple should be able to regain share with updated products

It has been a long time since Apple put out meaningful refreshes of either its higher-end MacBook Pro or its more mainstream MacBook Air lineup.

The 2015 MacBook Pro refreshes were rather modest, with the addition of the Force Touch track pad being the most visible change. 

In contrast, Apple's competitors in the Windows PC market have been quite aggressive in consistently bringing out new systems with many new features (though not all of those features have been useful). 

The bad news is that until Apple is able to get new products out, it risks seeing these aggressive Windows PC players further eating into its market share.

The good news for Apple, though, is that once it finally rolls out substantially improved Macs, it should be in a good position to both regain lost share and encourage its current installed base (which Maestri says grew to "a new all-time high at the end of the June quarter") to ditch their old Macs for newer, better ones. 

New Macs may be coming soon

Maestri told investors that the company ended the prior quarter with Mac channel inventories below the company's "four-week to five-week target range." The fact that the company managed channel inventory levels so lean (Apple probably could have shipped more Macs during the quarter while still maintaining healthy channel inventory levels) seems to suggest that new Macs will arrive fairly shortly.

This year, I expect Apple to update its MacBook Pro lineup to use Intel's (INTC 4.05%) newer Skylake-based processors. It's not clear if the MacBook Air lineup has a future at this point, but if it does, I would also expect those products to see upgrades to Skylake processors as well.

The current iMacs are also likely due for upgrades. I expect that the 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display will see an upgrade from Intel's Broadwell processor family to Skylake, which should bring enhancements in both CPU performance as well as in graphics.

The 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display could also see an upgrade to new discrete graphics processors as well as Intel's upcoming Kaby Lake processor family.

If Apple releases upgraded Mac products across the board, from notebooks to desktops, then its Mac business could be well positioned for multiple quarters of solid growth and share gains.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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