The bad news comes from Gartner. The Mac reportedly shed market share during the June quarter. At a 4.9% decline, it’s not much, but it stands in contrast to the rest of the PC industry where four of the major players, HP, Dell, Asus and Acer, reported slight increases. Other PC makers fared about the same as Apple or worse. Overall, it’s mostly a few percent one way or the other, but Apple slipped to fifth place, which is considered significant.
Now Gartner’s numbers are estimates. Apple won’t report actual sales until later this month, and both Gartner and IDC have been known to underestimate Mac sales. At best, though, Apple might report a positive result for Macs, but only by a few percent.
Flat sales may mostly be due to the fact that people aren’t as quick to buy new PCs as before, or they are using smartphones or tablets instead. The annual refreshes are minor and, with Macs, models that are six to seven years old will still be able to run macOS Sierra. So if what you have is good enough, why upgrade? What is there in the current hardware that most people care about anyway?
Yes, I understand the newer Mac may be more capable of managing high-energy games, and the use of SSDs makes everything so much snappier. So even if the raw benchmarks don’t seem altogether different, real world use may present a huge improvement. In the scheme of things, though, it may not matter so much if all you do is manage email, online surfing and word processing.
One excuse trotted out by some critics is that Apple needs to do more to improve its products. Last year’s addition of Force Touch to some notebooks is a cute feature, but not something you can’t live without. Other than the minimalist MacBook, which may be an acquired taste, Apple’s notebooks haven’t advanced all that much in recent years.
That’s not the case for the iMac, where the 5K display, introduced in 2014, is truly amazing, made all the more compelling with last year’s addition of a wider color gamut. This is the sort of improvement that is reasonably affordable too, thus putting Apple’s mainstream desktop ahead of most PC equivalents. But it’s last year’s news, and the expected fall update might not be involve more than faster parts.
So is it true that Macs are not improving fast enough, which is why people are resisting upgrades? Is that the reason?
I read such articles all the time. But they are usually unrealistic, because they do not consider the people who are likely to upgrade. They don’t buy new gear each and every year as some tech pundits and rich people might. They are apt to keep their Macs for several years before buying a new one, and thus the minor differences year-over-year aren’t considered.
A reason for buying a new Mac may include the fact that they won’t be able to update to a new OS, or take advantage of new features. Maybe a storage device is failing, and, rather than pay to fix it, they’d rather start over. There are a number of reasons, and it’s also true that people keep their gear longer than they used to.
The latter is considered a main reason why iPad sales are down. People have gear that’s several years old, and it still works well for them. When iOS 10 arrives, however, a fair amount of older models will no longer be supported. People with an iPad 3 or older, the original iPad mini or an iPhone 4s or older, are going to have to survive with the OS they have, and that could be a key incentive to get to the nearest Apple Store come this fall.
One survey I read the other day concluded that two thirds of the iPhones out there are two years old or older, and there’s plenty of potential demand for the next iPhone, presumably an iPhone 7. In fact, yet another sales estimate has it that growth will return this fall when the new model arrives. But that doesn’t mean the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus were not satisfactory. The people who bought them usually had an iPhone 5s or older, not an iPhone 6, so it still represented a huge improvement.
What’s more, suggesting that the next iPhone will not be a satisfactory upgrade is not a serious claim. The suggestion that the iPhone 6s was not compelling enough is also questionable. There are other reasons why sales weren’t as good. One is the slowdown in demand in China, another is that people are just keeping their gear longer, same as with iPads and Macs. Apple may be able to add more stuff to a future upgrade, but that may not be enough to attract people who are happy with what they have. Electronics gear lasts longer these days, economic conditions are difficult around the world. So it may not be the fault of the manufacturer if sales decrease.
Of course, if the next iPhone, iPad or Mac can walk on water, maybe things will change. Maybe Apple should follow Microsoft’s lead with Windows 10, and just ship them out unrequested. Of course, users would have the right to send them back unopened if they were asked to pay for unordered merchandise. But this is just as absurd as the logic behind the complaints about the next iPhone two months before it’s expected to be launched.
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