Has Apple’s venerable Mac entered a new phase of diminished expectations?

“The Mac grew at the extremely low rate of 1.8% over last year’s second quarter. Although it grew faster than the Windows PC market, the gap has narrowed quite a bit,” Horace Dediu writes for Asymco.

“We have to wait a few more quarters before we can decide whether the Mac will enter a new phase of diminished expectations,” Dediu explains. “Although it’s not immune from the impact of the iPad, the effect can take a long time to be evident and in either case, growth can come from conversion of Windows users which vastly outnumber loyal Mac users who might upgrade.”

Dediu writes, “Rather than there being a crisis in personal computing, we have a renaissance. And as in the actual Renaissance, it’s a volatile and unsettling period. Nowhere more so than in the changing of bases of power. Consider the following data.”

Asymco: Market Share of Personal Computing Brands, Q209-Q212

More in the full article here.

49 Comments

      1. Rule #1 in journalism, whatever works. You can always hook a reader with a question for the headline (print or even better online) of an article. People simply have to check it out if it has a decent question presented. This is as old as journalism. Hundreds of years. It has nothing to do with the tech world or Apple. MDN understands this very well thank you. Hey, it hooked you now didn’t it!

    1. Indeed — Fundamental strategic business growth / marketing idea… you either supersede your own products, or someone else will supersede them later. And yet, very few companies are willing to embrace this.

      1. Cannibalization isn’t an issue in itself. The issue is providing the same level or more profit. Look at companies like Hyundai (eg Genesis). They are selling a lot of premium vehicles now. It can be argued that they are selling less cheap vehicles because of this. Cannibalization isn’t always bad.

        1. I wasn’t clear. I was saying cannibalization is GOOD – in fact, of primary importance. If YOU don’t surpass and make irrelevant your own products, someone else will.

          1. You were clear. At least I understood you. I was reinforcing what you said. I was just taking it one step further. Most often cannibalization is thought of in a negative way, it doesn’t always need to be negative.
            We’ve seen Apple slowly moving away from computers and towards iOS devices. Heck if you can sell 100 iOS devices vs. 1 computer why not support the transition.

            Were cannibalization would be bad is if Apple comes out with an iPad mini. Say goodbye to the profits.

            I think Apple is better off keeping the current form factor. Let the competitors enter the $200 tablet market and remain focused on high quality iPads. Apple never entered the $300 netbook market and MacBook Airs are still holding their own.

            1. Apple could easily sell a mini at $300 and I would see some utility in a device that size. Holding the current iPad without some support while reading is not easy and it’s a little large to put my shopping list on (I use my iPhone for that). Would I continue to own both a full=up iPad and a mini? That’s a toughie. The iPhone/ iPad team is so versatile I don’t know if it needs any more variants.

    2. I just replaced my Macbook with a new Macbook air. My old macbook, with the help of an external monitor, had become the brains of my desktop now. I have not rushed out and bought an iMac for several reasons. Not the least of them is that why buy it now? Why not wait for the new iMac surely around the corner? You know, the one soon to come out with a Retina display? One reason Apple does not sell more of their products than they already do is customers waiting for that “one more thing”. You see this happen just about every year with the newest iPhone. I have not checked but I would be willing to bet that there has been a softening in iPhone sales in the most recent quarter. Why? I know why I have not rushed out and got the iPhone 4S. I am holding out for the new 5 in a month or so. This same phenomenon of restraint among buyers hoping to get an even better product does not mean by not buying we are getting Windows crap instead. It merely reflects our dedication to Apple by simply waiting for an even better product from a company we are willing to be patient for.

    3. My truck, a MBP 13 with 500GB HD and 8GB RAM, is still good to go. I just didn’t know I needed the two additional sports cars plus the two more I gave as gifts. Apple is doing very well by me right now.

      I will always need a truck, and that 15″ Retina display MBP is looking pretty sweet. The truck market continues to grow and Apples relative position continues to improve. I don’t see this as giving rise to diminished expectations in any way.

  1. Apple needs to deliver at least a minimum upgrade to their desktop Macs if they want to generate more sales. I’m still waiting for the new iMac and will hold off until something new is released.

  2. Details are just beginning to trickle into view, and so far they point to mobile devices, especially iPad, massively disrupting the PC market.

    I can hardly wait to see what develops: will the halo effect (iPad influencing purchase of more Macs) be greater than the cannibalization effect (iPads purchased instead of Macs)?

    This must be a good problem to have, for Tim Cook. But for many of us who depend on updated Macs, it’s a concern, and we’ll follow these early markers to see whether the Mac thrives or languishes.

  3. 7:07 p.m. PDT: Jobs: “When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farms.” Cars became more popular as cities rose, and things like power steering and automatic transmission became popular.
    7:07 p.m. PDT: “PCs are going to be like trucks”
    7:07 p.m. PDT: “They are still going to be around…they are going to be one out of x people.”
    7:08 p.m. PDT: “This transformation is going to make some people uneasy…because the PC has taken us a long ways. It’s brilliant. We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it’s uncomfortable.”
    7:08 p.m. PDT: “Is it the iPad? Who knows?” Also the time frame is unclear, he said.

    Steve Jobs at D8

  4. There is one major reason for this drop; its called Mission Control (or possibly more correctly ‘Missin Control’).
    When tens of thousands of professional users like myself can’t afford to upgrade to a system that majorly inhibits workflow; of course there is going to be a drop. Im just one user but I have two iMacs and a Macbook Pro due to be upgraded. It’s not just one sale per user that Apple is missing out on, but several.

    1. Speaking as one myself I agree but you have to remember that Apple isn’t our best buddy it’s simply a company trying to make a profit. Sure they have made great stuff over the years but c’mon they’re not a non profit feel good group trying to help anyone (although 95% of the readers believe it to be), they are “in business”. Apple clearly has to concentrate on the masses as they get bigger and bigger. It’s simple business economics. They need to keep feeding the beast. Do the math. Oh, they’ll throw something out there for the next 5 years to appease pro power users but it’s a losing proposition for them and they don’t like losing money. Back in the day the pro users were profitable and a steady income stream from a group of above average users. Pro users were video,graphics,audio etc.. Who wouldn’t want those people buying their products? But Apple is so big now that they don’t need and can’t afford to cater to pro users. It’s nothing personal it’s just business. Simple business 101. Perhaps this will open the door for someone to get into this area? Why not? But make no mistake, no matter what Apple comes up with or says they are not going to be there in the future. Don’t be foolish enough to think that they will. Plan now. Expand your horizons. Just as Pro Tools is the industry standard, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only option. It’s just the best. Right now. It too can be replaced. It’s a royal pain in the ass anymore anyway so it needs to be replaced with something better. And that can happen. Can happen with Mac’s too.

      1. Yep. Only better in my opinion. I tried and didn’t like exposé, and found it difficult to explain to new Mac converts. Mission Control is much easier and user friendly.

  5. the headline is BS. Look at Mac’s revenue — still solid, still stable, still a significant chunk of Apple’s business. But because an iMac costs more up-front than a pad/pod/phone, it’s guaranteed to sell in lesser numbers. Duh.

    what Apple isn’t doing, unfortunately, is plugging in all the holes in its Mac lineup to secure continued growth.

    – The Mac Pro has limited graphics support, no Thunderbolt.
    – There is no mid-range expandable tower Mac.
    – The Mac mini pales in performance measurements.
    – iMacs are superb but not without significant competition.
    – There is no longer a 17″ MacBook.
    – There is no entry-level MacBook.
    – The Retina MacBook has inadequate software support to take full advantage of its display capabilities, while robbing the buyer of RAM, battery, and other once-common upgrades.
    – The MacBook Air is a niche product that hasn’t captured broad market appeal, again with limited expandability.

    Hey Apple, if you want the Mac business to grow, you have to roll out hardware that make people say “wow” and offer greater user accessibility, not less. Simply squeezing the sheet metal tighter and upping horsepower 5% every few years is the level of complacency we expect from Ford, not Apple.

    1. They have to concentrate their resources not on what you and I need but rather what is profitable for AAPL. The two are no longer synonymous. Apple doesn’t owe anyone or group anything. They have made the best products out there. Still do but they’re now phones,tablets and music players. Coming soon, a tv? It’s like feeding your family, you do what you have to do to make enough money to get the job done. Apple is no different. They have no obligation to power users. Conversely power users have no obligation to stick with Apple products if they fail to meet our needs. Move on. Someone will fill the void eventually. It may be a rough transition but it will happen. It has to happen. Pros aren’t pros for no reason. The casual computer user will and can use pretty much anything that’s out thre. It may be tedious but it’s not affecting one’s life’s work. Pros can’t and won’t stand still. And they won’t whine for long. It’s too important to whine. Whining doesn’t accomplish anything.

      1. @Weekend:

        resources? Apple is sitting on so much money and intellectual horsepower that absolutely nothing should be stopping it.

        It think it’s a matter of semantics: Apple isn’t stagnating if they update the product that one person wants, but they ARE stagnating if they stop serving or refuse to offer what another person wants. My list speaks for itself. Why on earth would Apple refuse to deliver people more Mac options. How @#$%^&* hard is it to offer a 17″ laptop, for crying out loud?

        1. Actually I feel your pain. I’m not happy with the Mac Pros I purchased in December but I had to do something. No Thunderbolt! But I’ve given you the skinny on why things are like they are and will be going forward. You just want to make things fit your perspective. Ain’t gonna happen. Deal with it. Move on. Apple doesn’t care. Nor are they obligated in any way. While you and I would like things our way I understand that Apple is just a company selling product. You still think that they’re your buddy. They never were.

    2. Mike, most people do not upgrade their computers, but stick with the configuration they purchased. RAM increases have often been limited to a fixed limit in the machine, such as 4GB or 8GB in laptops, neither of which was as large as I would like these days.

      For me, Apple has a home run with my MaBook Pro Retina. Yes, the display is wonderful, but the real achievement is letting me have 16 GB RAM! I was especially pleased that the option to configure from 8 GB to 16 GB RAM was only $200. Together with the quad core CPU, 500 GB SSD and Thunderbolt I/O, this is a powerhouse computer. It’s also a beautiful object with high build quality, and I expect it to be durable and reliable.

      The cost (including tax) was well under $4,000. I paid more than that in 1990s dollars for each of three Mac portables/laptops, including aftermarket memory upgrades. Technology marches on! This is a remarkable machine; I expect to see still more remarkable Macs in the future.

  6. Last year the Macbook Pro range was revamped at the end of February and the iMac in May. This quarter only saw the new Macbooks released a couple of weeks before the end so it’s too early to predict anything yet. Also PC sales will slow and grow before and after the launch of Windows 8.

    1. Agree …… New iMacs soon will help as well as WinDoz 8, when people realize they don’t want they will go Mac but many are hanging on for a few more months …..

  7. Or maybe it’s because we are in the middle of a recession. Most people just haven’t got the money to splash out on a grand or twos worth of computer any more. They are hanging on to what they’ve got and if they are spending it’s on something cheaper i.e. the iPad.

    The fact that the Mac is growing faster than the PC in this economy should be seen as good news.

  8. Unfortunately, Apple’s reluctance to release improved designs of their desktop models is hindering sales. Most people are willing to wait for Apple to upgrade current specs rather than purchase last years models. All of Apple’s desktop Macs are getting long in the tooth and this is no incentive to make a rash purchase.

  9. Apple has been focusing more on the iPhone and iPads than their PCs, which to me is sad. Especially the entry level Macs which they really need to focus more on unless they’re trying to get away from that. Which would be a mistake IMHO. I wish Steve was still here. God damn it.

  10. > growth can come from conversion of Windows users which vastly outnumber loyal Mac users who might upgrade

    Obviously… Apple just need to “convert” a steady percentage of Windows every year, to keep the growth going every year.

    Next year (2013) should be a big year for Mac, as Windows 8 drives “desktop” and “laptop” computer users away from the “default” platform choice. Mac OS X Mountain Lion will feel more comfortable and familiar to current Windows users than Windows 8.

    1. Windows users are for the most part unwilling to change. They are brainwashed and used to using Windows. It’s all they know. Windows 8 sucks ass but the masses will unfortunately keep their old Windows or suffer through learning this new POS.

      1. Ah, but Windows 8 is such a departure from the traditional Windows UI that OS X is now more familiar to Windows sufferers than W8 is.

        And Microsoft has finally broken legacy support to the point that a lot of your old applications probably won’t run on it. 

        Since W8 is like some alien new system, why not consider a Mac?

        I think a lot of people are going to end up asking themselves that question, and I think it’ll lead to a huge exodus away from Winhell.

        1. Nah, Microsoft knows enterprise isn’t going to buy Windows 8. Most of them are only now migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP because support is ending soon. Windows 7 is destined to become the new XP for many and PC vendors will continue to offer Windows 7 as BTO for a long time.

          Microsoft can take a risk with Windows 8. Oh sure Windows 8 will bomb for the desktop PC. It’s a terrible desktop PC OS for sure but I doubt Microsoft cares about that. One of the primary reasons why Windows is so lousy and OS X is so polished is because of Microsoft’s OEMs. Microsoft has to no avail, for years pushed its partners to sell “Signature branded” PCs without the crapware pre-installed. Almost all of them refuse to do so because they profit from including the crapware in a space with almost no margin. Apple has shown in recent years that it is possible to sell expensive hardware with cheap software rather than the other way around, the way Microsoft was used to.

          So Microsoft with it’s (at the very least “something unique”) Surface tablet going up against Apple’s iPad in an already war-torn landscape riddled with the corpses of Android-based knockoffs. It’s a gutsy as hell move, but I got to give them credit for actually trying with some confidence to be the 3rd candidate in an oddly lopsided two-party system. And you know, people like an underdog sometimes.

          I am by no means a Windows apologist as I can’t stand using Windows at work. However I’m beginning to get the feeling lately especially after seeing Mountain Lion and how evolutionary rather than revolutionary Apple’s gotten lately. Explains the slow growth of Mac share.

          Yeah MacBooks with better screens are OK, but the upgrade mentality Apple created with iPods, iPhones and iPads hasn’t exactly permeated to the same degree with expensive computers. I think most consumers will buy a Mac and use it for a good many years, more than the 1-2 years Apple wants. The Mac is just too good in a weird way. When you build the perfect razor, who’s going to need razor blades? So no one thinks about a way to improve shaving.

          I think Apple has peaked on some fronts where the old Apple benefitted as the underdog rather than the juggernaut. I think we should honestly hope Windows (and for that matter Surface) does well, because it only keeps Apple nimble. On the other hand, that “drive” may have departed with Steve Jobs?

      2. I agree… Their unwillingness to “change” and the obvious “change” of Windows 8 (compared to previous versions) is precisely why they will consider switching to a Mac (in higher numbers). As I said, Apple does not need (or even want) to convert every remaining Windows user at once; it just needs to be a steady percentage every year.

        Mac OS X Mountain Lion will look and feel more like Windows to them, compared to “Metro” interface of Windows 8. Yes, it has the old UI “underneath,” but Metro is front and center, and can’t be avoided…

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