Mac sales in the second quarter contracted by nearly 7%, the third consecutive quarter of decline, sliding to 3.75 million systems, the lowest number in more than two years, the company reported Tuesday.
Although the sales decline was just over half that of the PC industry average, the three straight quarters of declines -- and the fact that the two preceding them were positive by very slim margins -- confirms that Macs are being battered by the same factors as machines powered by Microsoft's Windows, including cannibalization by tablets.
According to estimates by IDC, the global personal computer business shrank by 11.4% when compared to the same quarter the year before. PC shipments have posted negative growth numbers for five consecutive quarters, and appear destined to continue that trend through at least the rest of 2013.
Apple will find it just as tough as any Windows PC maker to post gains in the near future: In the third quarter of 2012, Apple sold 4.9 million Macs, its second-best quarter ever. Matching that would take a quarter-over-quarter increase of 31%, a sequential gain nearly one-and-a-half times larger than Apple's biggest since 2006.
The company has a better shot at besting prior-year sales in the October-December quarter, largely because 2012's final three months were a disaster for the Mac, with sales plummeting 22% from the year before. Apple later blamed the fall-off in sales to problems getting new iMacs off factory lines.
Macs aren't in danger of being dumped by Apple, said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, in a Tuesday interview. "They're still the heart of the company," he said, referring to tradition, not revenue.
But the Mac was largely ignored during Tuesday's earnings call, when CEO Tim Cook and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer perfunctorily cited a few statistics and then moved on to other products.
That was understandable considering the Mac's place in the Apple revenue hierarchy. In the second quarter, Macs generated 14% of Apple's total revenue, slightly more than they have over the last three quarters. But the iPhone, and to a lesser extent, the iPad, are far more important to Apple's bottom line than is the Mac. The two mobile lines accounted for about 70% of the quarter's sales.
One of the few bright spots in the Mac's performance was that revenue declined less than did unit sales: Year-over-year revenue from the Mac was down only 1%. The explanation? The average selling price, or ASP, for the Mac was $1,303, or 6% higher than last year.
The ASP increase was highlighted by data from Chicago-based research company Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP). In early July, a CIRP-conducted survey of U.S. customers showed that the higher-priced Retina-equipped MacBook Pro accounted for 31% of all Mac sales from April through June. The more expensive 15-in. notebooks, which start at $2,199, made up 70% of the Retina sales, or nearly a fourth of all Macs.
The first Retina MacBook Pro did not appear until mid-June 2012, giving this year the revenue edge.
Apple also watched another metric take a dive. Combined Mac and iPad sales -- aggregated by some to analyze a company's complete computing line as buyers snap up tablets in lieu of notebooks -- were down even further than Macs alone.
Sales for Macs-plus-iPads plunged to 18.4 million from 21.1 million in the same period of 2012, a drop of 12.8%, or more than a percentage point than the personal computer industry's average decline. It was the first time since the iPad's 2010 introduction that the combined sales have fallen compared to the year before.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.