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Forget the Recession: Mac Sales Soar!

As Apple’s stock remained down in the dumps, more over the general state of the economy than any particular problem with the company, the latest survey from NPD Group shows that sales of new Macs are on a roll. According to published reports, Apple has garnered a 14% share of the U.S. retail market, up from a mere 9% last year.

What’s most interesting in this survey is not just the fact that Apple is outpacing the PC industry by a huge margin. Contrary to the belief that sales of desktop Macs were down in the dumps, this product segment actually showed a 64% unit growth over last year, compared to 20% for the entire industry. Note-book growth, possibly fueled by high demand for the new MacBook AIr, reached 67%, compared to 11% for the rest of the industry.

Then again, who wants to buy one of those ugly PC note-books when you can get a Mac, right?

What’s more interesting is that Apple is also getting a quarter of the total revenue. This is largely due to the fact that they don’t play in the cheap PC space, where profits are slim or non-existent. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Macs are expensive, and I continue to dispute the claims that Apple has BMW-pricing compared to Ford-pricing for the rest of the industry.

If you actually compare the standard equipment on any Mac, at any price category, with a comparably-built PC from any first-line manufacturer, Apple is highly competitive. Sometimes the Mac costs a little more, sometimes less. In the workstation category, price out a Dell Precision Workstation with Intel’s new Xeon “Harpertown” processors and then put the same options on a Mac Pro. You’ll be amazed!

Now if Apple would price RAM upgrades more realistically, and reduce the costs of their displays, they’d fare even better. I just don’t see why they haven’t upgraded their displays in several years, and continue to price the products above equal or superior models from Dell and other companies.

Before I go on, though, I should point out that the NPD survey only covers retail sales. They don’t include online, although Apple’s results in that space most likely aren’t too shabby either.

As to the rest of the planet, Apple is still stuck in the low single digits, apparently, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see higher figures there too when this quarter’s financials are revealed next month.

When it comes to the rest of Apple’s product line, though, the jury is apparently still out. Analysts are claiming that iPod sales are going to be flat or slightly below last year. Possibly, though the reduction in the price of the basic iPod shuffle and the introduction of a new model with more Flash memory might help. The iPhone may be doing quite well, however, with other published reports claiming that the 16GB version is a little hard to come by. Indeed, Apple’s online store is quoting a 5-7 day wait for that model. So suggestions that iPhone sales might be lagging seem a tad premature, or maybe just plain wrong.

In light of this development, I wonder when Michael Dell might take back his statement of a decade ago that Apple should just go out of business and send refunds to its stockholders. In light of Dell’s own problems selling product and delivering quality support these days, maybe the reverse is true.

However, I’m not really down on Dell. Yes, I think their current TV commercials, where some no-named band does a perfectly awful imitation of a bad Beatles song, are downright annoying. But you see, Dell has some good stuff in its product portfolio, particularly when it comes to displays. I’ve worked with both their 24-inch and 30-inch models, and they provide superb pictures. In fact, I’m using the latter now with my Mac Pro, and couldn’t be happier, except for the fact that Dell now has a newer, better version — and I’m awaiting the promised review sample.

So where does Apple go from here? Are they soon going to beat the big box movers, which include Dell and HP? Not likely anytime soon. You see, those companies sell a lot of product to the enterprise market, a place where Apple has made only faltering steps.

On the other hand, now that the iPhone will soon be a genuine player in that segment, how long will it take for the Mac to follow?

Indeed, what will Apple’s product portfolio and market share be like in, say, 2010? And does Microsoft have something to fear? You bet they do.