Apple sold more Macs than it did in the same quarter last year, keeping its better-than-the-industry string alive, according to analysts who cover the Cupertino, Calif. company.
In a note to clients today, Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald downgraded his estimate of Mac sales for the second quarter from 4.4 million to 4.2 million. Even then, such sales would be a 12% increase over the second quarter of 2013, when Apple sold 3.75 million Macs. White forecast that Mac revenues would climb by 14% year-over-year, with ASPs, or "average selling prices," declining to $1,321, a 3% drop.
White's prediction of Mac unit sales growth was significantly stronger than the personal computer industry overall for the second quarter: Research firm IDC said global shipments dropped 2%, while rival Gartner pegged them as flat.
If Apple does post White's kind of numbers, it would make it 32 quarters out of the last 33 that the company has out-performed the industry average. The one quarter that Apple failed to match or beat the overall business was the fourth of 2012, when a production fiasco meant it had no iMacs to sell during a several-month hole.
But most analysts are more bearish on Mac sales than White.
According to Fortune, which regularly polls analysts before Apple's quarterly earnings calls, the average of the 25 professional and amateur experts was 3.9 million Macs, a 4.2% increase over the previous year. Those two-dozen-plus-one analysts forecast sales ranging from a low of 3.5 million -- which would be a 6% decline -- to a high of 4.3 million, representing a 14.5% increase.
Even a 4.2% gain -- which would be close to the first-quarter increase of about 4.7% -- would put Apple ahead of the personal computer industry's average.
Researchers at IDC and Gartner didn't talk about Apple's global sales in their recent estimates, but pointed to macro trends that may explain Mac growth, if that's what Apple reports Tuesday. Both research firms cited stronger-than-xpected shipments on the consumer side in developed countries, historically the Mac's strongest markets.
"The better-than-expected results seem to arise ... from the recent slowing in tablet growth and perhaps signals the beginning of some stabilization on the consumer side," said Jay Chou, an IDC analyst, in a statement two weeks ago.
Another possible contributing factor was specific to Apple: The company typically gets a bit of a sales bump when it refreshes existing Macs. During the quarter Apple dropped prices of all four stock MacBook Air notebooks in a minor revamp of the line; as part of the cuts, Apple priced an Air under $900 for the first time. And near the end of the quarter the company introduced a new, lower-priced iMac that Stephen Baker of the NPD Group saw as evidence that Apple was paying a "lot more attention to getting to more mainstream pricing and more mainstream customers."
Apple will release its second quarter earnings, including its Mac sales figures, tomorrow at 2 p.m. PT, 5 p.m. ET.
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 email@example.com.
CAPTION: Mac sales grew by about 4% in the second quarter, according to an average of 25 analysts' estimates. If accurate, it would be the third quarter running that Apple has posted gains year over year. (Data: Apple, estimate provided by Fortune.)