Mac sales outlook sags under weight of recession
Fewer people planning to buy Apple as netbooks gain ground, survey shows
Computerworld - The short-term outlook for sales of Apple Inc.'s Macintosh computers has significantly slipped in the past month, indicating that the company isn't immune to the recession, a market research company said today.
According to ChangeWave Research, 27% of the U.S. consumers surveyed who said that they plan to buy a laptop in the next 90 days said that their new purchase would be a Mac. Apple's slice of the increasingly shrinking pool of buyers was down 6 percentage points from a similar survey done by ChangeWave in November 2008.
"[That's] our weakest visibility reading for Apple laptops in nearly two years," said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's research director.
Recent sales also were weaker than a year ago, Carton said. Among the people who bought a computer in the past 90 days, 22% said they bought a Mac laptop, and 17% confirmed they'd purchased a Mac desktop. Both numbers were down four percentage points from the November survey.
For its part, Apple said it sold 9% more Macs in 2008's final calendar quarter than it did in the same three-month period in 2007.
"Apple has been caught in the recession," said Carton. "Its projected growth is just a fraction of what it was last year at this time, and also the year before that."
Simply put, said Carton, Apple's revamped MacBooks -- which the company introduced in October -- "didn't explode out of the box." And that means the company might be looking at a tougher quarter than it and financial experts have figured. "Is it going to meet its greatly reduced expectations? February will tell. But I think they got off to a rougher start in January than they expected."
It's typical, of course, for Mac sales -- all PC sales, for that matter -- to dip after the holidays. But Carton stressed that this year's early decline is deeper than in the past. "The overall demand has turned significantly weaker than we've seen in a very long time," he said.
In January 2008, for example, ChangeWave's survey showed that the percentage of people planning to buy a Mac laptop actually climbed to 33% from November 2007's 29%.
Part of Apple's problem, Carton said, is because of the increased popularity of "netbooks," the term given to low-priced, small notebooks that cost less than $500 -- sometimes, considerably less.
ChangeWave's latest survey, conducted from Jan. 5 to 12 with nearly 3,500 U.S. consumers, found that almost one in five laptop buyers (19%) said they had purchased a netbook in the past three months. About one in seven (14%) of future notebook buyers said they planned to pick up a netbook in the next 90 days.
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