Headlines about declining PC sales are noting new - in fact the real news would be if computer sales actually increased during a quarter. What we're a little less accustomed to is seeing Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ: AAPL ) Mac sales struggling.
According to Gartner, Mac demand was off again last quarter, dropping Apple to fifth place among world PC vendors. Mac sales are still the third-largest category in the company's portfolio, so the possibility of Mac demand entering a prolonged slump has implications for AAPL stock.
Apple Mac Sales Underperform the Market
Although there was a blip this spring when IDC reported an increase of less than 1% , world PC sales have been down every quarter for five years. Apple had largely bucked the trend with Mac sales typically outperforming those of Windows PC manufacturers.
In the past year and a half, AAPL has seemed less invincible, with Mac sales going through multiple rough patches. Gartner just released its numbers for world PC shipments in Q3 and it's not good news for the company. While overall world PC sales were down 3.6%, Mac sales were off by 5.6% compared to Q3 2016, which saw Mac demand down a whopping 13.4% . That was enough to drop Apple to fifth place among world PC manufacturers, with Asus moving into fourth place.
In the U.S., Apple remains the third-most-popular PC vendor, but it saw its Mac sales stateside slide 7.6% year-over-year.
Gartner described a "very weak back-to-school sales season" in the U.S., where Apple was running a promotion offering both educational pricing and a free $300 pair of Beat wireless headphones with a Mac purchase.
It's interesting to note that HP Inc (NYSE: HPQ ) notched 4.4% growth in its overall PC sales, building on a 2.3% gain in Q2. Gartner notes HP has now notched five consecutive quarters of global PC growth.
IDC Begs to Differ
On the same day that Gartner released its Q3 PC sales numbers, so did IDC . The two companies calculate their numbers differently and while Gartner showed 4.61 million Mac shipments for Q3, IDC came up with 4.90 million. The difference is enough that IDC has world PC sales down just 0.5% and Apple's Mac sales up 0.3%.
The one thing both companies agree on is that HP is the only PC company that's seeing meaningful growth.
No matter who ends up being right, Apple's Mac sales are stagnant at best .
Bottom Line for AAPL
Apple has tried various strategies to boost Mac sales. It went ultra-thin and stylish with the MacBook and revamped the MacBook Pro, adding a new OLED TouchBar feature. It has a new iMac Pro coming in December and it promised a completely redesigned Mac Pro for 2018. But it's beginning to look as though even Apple isn't immune to market forces and it is being dragged down as part of the overall PC sales decline.
One measure AAPL took was an overhaul of its iPad and iPad Pro lineup this year and that has been paying off. In Q3, the company reported a 28% sales increase for iPads after a long period of decline. That may have eaten into some Mac laptop sales, but it helped defend against competitors like Microsoft Corporation's ( NASDAQ: MSFT ) popular Surface Pro laptop replacement. The company is also trying to introduce new products to boost revenue: the Apple Watch, AirPods and the new HomePod smart speaker.
However, the company still needs to do more to turn around those sliding Mac sales. With $5.6 billion in revenue in Q3 - over 12% of Apple's total for the quarter - the Mac remains a factor in AAPL stock's valuation. And unless it solves the sliding Mac demand problem, it has the potential to turn into a significant headwind.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securitie s.
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