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Mac sales corral 14% of U.S. computer market

New MacBook Air accounts for 20% of Apple's notebook sales, doesn't cannibalize other models, says NPD Group

March 18, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple Inc.'s continued retail success translated into a boost in its share of the U.S. computer market to 14% last month, up from 9% in the same month last year, a research firm said today.

Mac notebooks did particularly well in February, according to NPD Group Inc., which tracks U.S. sales at retail stores and some online sites, including Amazon.com and Apple's own e-store. "The MacBook and MacBook Pro did pretty well and made a smooth transition to the Penryn," said Stephen Baker, an NPD analyst, referring to the new 45-nanometer processor from Intel Corp.

"And Apple got a nice bump from the MacBook Air," he added. The MacBook Air, the ultrathin laptop that was unveiled in mid-January by Apple CEO Steve Jobs but which didn't start shipping until early February, accounted for about 20% of Apple's notebook sales last month. Better still for Apple, Baker said, it appears that the new model didn't cannibalize sales of existing Apple products.

"It looks like the Air is giving Apple an incremental volume opportunity," Baker said.

Unit sales of Mac notebooks, including the Air, grew 64% last month compared with the same month a year earlier, while sales of Apple's desktop models were up 55% from 2007 levels. Apple's notebook sales uptick was more than triple the 20% growth rate for all laptop sales in the U.S. for the month, and its desktop sales performance was much better than the overall U.S. average, which actually decreased 5% in unit sales year to year.

When both notebook and desktop units sales were combined, Apple's increase of 60% year to year was much greater than the relatively meager 9% of the overall U.S. sales growth.

"Regardless of the month, when Apple comes out with new products, they get a big bump in sales," Baker said. "They're just much more focused when they have a new product to announce."

In addition to the MacBook Air shipping in volume, February also saw Apple refresh its MacBook and MacBook Pro lines by shifting to faster, more power-efficient 45nm Penryn processors from Intel and bumping up the size of the notebooks' hard drives.

Baker attributed Apple's success to a number of factors, but he said that its retail stores -- and the way it crafts consumers' complete "buying experience" -- was the most important. "The market sometimes discounts this, but Apple's stores are key to what they do," he said. "[Hewlett-Packard Co.] is looking to replicate some of this, but even that shows how difficult it is to use third-party retail without managing the entire experience."

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