Apple's iMac sales jump 74% in U.S.

Even Apple couldn't have expected a sales jump this big, says analyst

Sales of Apple's iMacs in the U.S. jumped 74% during October and November over the same period last year, a retail research firm said today, making the desktop line refresh "a very big success."

iMac sales during the first two months of the final calendar quarter were up so dramatically that it had to take even Apple by surprise, said Stephen Baker, analyst with the NPD Group. "They've reaccelerated that [desktop] segment for Apple," said Baker, noting that the 21% jump in overall Mac sales were largely due to iMac sales. Sales of Apple's laptops -- the MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air -- increased by just 5% year-over-year during October and November.

"It's hard to imagine Apple could have predicted those iMac sales, especially of the 27-in. models," said Baker.

Although sales of the less-expensive 21.5-in. iMacs were greater than those of the pricier 27-in. version, the big boost in sales of the latter, when compared to previous sales of Apple's top-of-the-line iMacs, was the big surprise to Baker.

"Apple often gets a big jump in sales after a refresh," noted Baker, "and we're on the cusp of that six- to eight-week period. We saw a big jump in March when Apple tweaked the internals of the iMac, but that didn't have the legs that this one seems to have."

Apple launched its revamped iMacs on Oct. 20, replacing the earlier 20- and 24-in. displays with 21.5- and 27-in. screens, and offering quad-core processors on the larger models for the first time. The 21.5-in. model starts at $1,199; the 27-in. version starts at $1,699, with the quad-core model going for $1,999.

When asked why the iMacs have done so well -- a turnaround of sorts for Apple, which has seen desktop sales drop steadily over the past several years -- Baker said simply, "I wish I knew."

But he was certain that Apple's problems in delivering 27-in. iMacs was not solely due to technical issues with the computers' graphics cards, a claim some authorized resellers have made after users began reporting major problems with new 27-in. iMacs.

"The [graphics problem] is probably not the only reason for the delays," Baker said, referring to Apple's current two-week span between ordering a new 27-in. iMac and shipping the unit. "Sales have been so strong that they've had to scramble for more product. But just because the 27-in. is outperforming Apple's expectations doesn't mean the [graphics] problems should be dismissed."

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