March Quarter Mac Sales Could Miss (Not That It Really Matters)

Published on April 17, 2012
by John Paczkowski

The latest U.S. Mac sales data from NPD is in, and it’s not nearly as favorable to Apple as it has been in the past. In fact, the numbers are soft enough that some observers feel the company‚Äôs first-quarter Mac sales may fall short of expectations when it reports earnings next week.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reports that NPD’s data, which counts only U.S. sales, implies that Mac sales for the March quarter ended down 5 percent year over year. And if that proves to be the case, Apple could potentially miss its Mac number when it posts financials next Tuesday. Caveat: Last quarter, Apple beat NPD data by 14 percentage points — something to keep in mind while mulling Munster’s assertion.

Anyway … the Street is looking for worldwide Mac sales of 4.5 million; Munster figures Apple likely sold less than that — somewhere between 4.1 million to 4.4 million, with sales slowed by a core MacBook Pro and iMac lineup that hasn’t been refreshed in more than a year. Those two product lines alone likely account for about 50 percent of Mac sales, so it’s certainly conceivable that diminishing consumer interest in them might affect Apple’s sales numbers.

But is this really anything to worry about?

Munster himself acknowledges that strong iPhone and iPad sales will more than offset any Mac softness. He still expects the company to beat consensus EPS and revenue estimates and, like many Apple watchers, he sees new Macs headed into the pipeline soon, following on the heels of Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors. Said Munster, “We believe that MacBook, iMac, and potentially MacBook Air, lines could all be refreshed during the June quarter, which we believe would result in a reacceleration of Mac sales.”

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