Mac sales have really taken off since Apple switched from PowerPC processors to Intel x86 CPUs in 2006. According to Apple’s data, over 90 million Intel Macs have been sold, with a peak of 5.198 million in the 2011 holiday quarter.
Here’s a chart showing quarterly sales since the first calendar quarter of 2006, when the first Intel-based Macs were introduced.
There are seasonal fluctuations, as well as spikes when several new Macs were introduced in the same period, but despite three quarters in the 4.8-5.2 million range, Mac sales have reversed their long growth trend and entered a period of decline.
We can see this better in the following graph, which shows total Mac sales for the previous four quarters to smooth out the big picture. This chart goes back to 2000, and you can readily see the post-2012 dip.
After a bit of a Y2K spike in 2000, Mac sales fell to an annualized rate of 3-3.5 million until late 2004, and from there annualized unit sales growth was quite steady until it peaked in the third calendar quarter of 2012. Since then, it’s been nothing but decline.
An Industry in Decline
This may be surprising news to the Mac faithful, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has been watching trends in recent years. Where notebooks replaced desktops as the dominant type of personal computer, tablets are now replacing notebooks, and the entire PC industry is in decline.
Well, not quite the whole PC industry. One company continues to grow its market share on the PC side while also owning the tablet market. That would be Apple, of course. With record iPad sales, a strong and growing iPhone market, and income from iTunes and apps, Apple doesn’t need Macs to remain profitable.
Not that we expect Apple to drop Macs anytime soon. They still sell well, and they set the bar for the rest of the PC industry. Lightweight notebooks have to compete with the MacBook Air. High-end notebooks with the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Small desktops with the Mac mini. Wintel powerhouses with the current 3-year-old Mac Pro and the model soon to replace it.
A Strong Mac Future
Apple has a great operating system that’s going to take a huge step forward when OS X 10.9 Mavericks is released in September or so – probably concurrently with the 2013 Mac Pro. Between its industry-leading hardware design, solid and still relatively malware-free operating system, and a huge range of software, the Mac is here to stay for some time to come.
Sure, it may someday fall off the face of the product line as the Apple II once did, but considering that PCs with keyboards are much better tools for certain types of work, that day remains far off.
Mac sales will probably go into longterm decline from which they will never recover, but odds are the rest of the PC industry will shrink much more quickly. And even if Macs vanish someday, we’ll continue to maintain our community of Mac users supporting each other on the platform we all love.