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Apple, Inc.'s Slow but Steady PC Rise Continues

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 12, 2016 at 7:30PM

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The Mac maker continues to chip away at the Windows world.

Image source: Apple.

Slowly but surely, Apple (AAPL -1.07%) has been growing its global PC market share every quarter for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the mature PC market continues to stagnate, although global unit volumes have stabilized for the most part. Even though Mac unit shipments declined by 4% in the fourth quarter, that still outperformed the broader market's 11% drop, according to IDC. So Apple gained share.

IDC has now released its estimates for the first quarter, and the numbers show that this trend is continuing.

The MacBook rises
IDC estimates that Apple has now become the No. 4 global PC vendor, thanks in part to strong demand within North America. Apple's performance was strong enough to narrowly overtake ASUS in the rankings.

Vendor

Q1 2016 Shipments

Q1 2016 Market Share

Lenovo

12.2 million

20.1%

HP

11.6 million

19.2%

Dell

9 million

14.9%

Apple

4.5 million

7.4%

ASUS

4.4 million

7.2%

Data source: IDC.

It was a slim victory over ASUS, and it's also worth noting that Gartner's figures differ in that it still ranks ASUS at No. 4 with 5.4 million units shipped. But regardless, Apple continues to hold its own in the PC market, slowly chipping away at the Windows world.

Mac updates these days are largely incremental, since it's such a mature product category. Additionally, the timing of future Mac cycles is sort of up in the air right now as Intel is moving away from its long-standing tick-tock model. But in the absence of CPU performance improvements, Apple can still drive demand with new industrial designs and continued operating system updates.

The rise of detachables
Categorically, the PC market is also being partially cannibalized by rising sales of detachables and convertibles. The Mac will decidedly not be Apple's attempt to capture this demand; that's what iPad Pro is for. For what it's worth, IDC technically considers the iPad Pro to be a detachable due to the Smart Keyboard, even though the accessory is sold separately.

Image source: Apple.

Still, part of me thinks that Apple could have hedged its bets on convertibles and detachables when it comes to the operating system interface. The Mac maker has made a concerted bet that mobile and desktop platforms would remain distinct, but that could turn into a disadvantage if the market signals that it truly wants a convergence -- which could be happening as we speak, given that detachables sales are on the rise.

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