A well-known storyline in the world of technology is that the PC market is expected to contract in the high-single-digit percentage range. However, one company that seems to be bucking that trend is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Last quarter, Apple reported seeing its Mac unit shipments rise by 10%, with revenue up 2%, and in the company's most recent quarter, it saw Mac unit shipments and revenue surge 9%.
Given how weak the overall PC market is, this is a clear indication that Apple continues to gain share against systems running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows operating system.
The product refresh surely helped, but Windows laptops saw refreshes, too
One possible explanation for Apple's solid share gain in the quarter is that the company recently refreshed its MacBook products. The MacBook Air models as well as the 13-inch MacBook Pro saw refreshes to include Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) Broadwell processor family, and both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros were updated to include Force Touch trackpads.
Apple also introduced the new fanless MacBook in March, expanding its Mac portfolio.
That said, while new products probably helped Apple, the competition in the world of Windows laptops didn't sit still, either. Many vendors updated their systems to include Intel's Broadwell processors, and in some cases -- such as with the Dell XPS 13 -- vendors rolled out totally redesigned systems with impressive specifications.
These new systems not only didn't help the Windows vendors defend share against Apple's Mac, but they also failed to spark a revival in the consumer PC market at large.
Will Windows 10 be a game-changer for the non-Apple vendors?
Microsoft has said it will be releasing its next-generation Windows 10 operating system on July 29, which is just over a week away as of this writing. Windows 10 is expected to bring improvements to the user experience, particularly for more traditional PC usages, which some believe could help stimulate interest in buying new PCs.
That said, Microsoft is giving the operating system away to existing Windows users, so there is a chance that users might simply accept the "free" update to Windows 10 and continue to use existing systems. After all, the system requirements for Windows 10 are actually quite modest, as you can see here.
If I had to place a bet at this point, I would say that Windows 10 in itself probably won't do much to fundamentally improve the market segment share of Windows-based devices relative to the MacBooks.
That said, if the Windows vendors can put out systems based on Windows 10 and Intel's Skylake that offer significant, practical advantages over what the MacBooks have (assuming Apple doesn't have a big update of its systems with Skylake), that might help Windows share relative to Mac OS.
A great show from Apple
Apple has done a fantastic job executing with the Mac. Mac OS is, in my view, a well-designed, PC-first operating system. The Macs themselves, too, are well built and highly functional.
With that in mind, I do hope that Apple chooses to overhaul the MacBook Air lineup this fall to include a higher-resolution display with narrower bezels to further improve the value proposition of the devices relative to competing devices, which often use higher resolution/better displays.
At the end of the day, though, even without industrial design and display updates, the MacBook Air/MacBook Pro lines seem to be doing quite well. Who am I to argue with the consistent success of Apple's Mac business?