Apple stares down sluggish economy, sells 2.3 million Macs

'Unfazed' Apple sells second-highest number of Macs in a single quarter

Apple Inc. said Wednesday it shipped nearly 2.3 million Macs in the first three months of the year, boosting sales by 51% over the same quarter in 2007 — its biggest year-to-year gain in almost two decades.

The numbers impressed Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research (TBR). "The downturn in the U.S. economy, which might be expected to affect high-end consumer products like Macs, had no discernable effect on Apple," said Gottheil, who added that the company seemed "unfazed" by the sluggish American economy.

"Totaling its Americas revenue with that of its retail stores, more than 80% of which are in the U.S., revenue increased 43% year to year, and units sold increased [by] 52.5%," Gottheil said in an e-mail. "TBR believes Apple has established itself as a real and often better choice for consumer purchasers of higher-end PCs."

Worldwide, Apple sold 856,000 desktops during the quarter, the second in its 2008 fiscal year, and 1.4 million notebooks — year-to-year increases of 37% and 61%, respectively. The total of 2.29 million Macs was just slightly less than the record 2.32 million sold during the last three months of 2007.

By Gottheil's calculations — combining sales from the Americas category with 80% of the sales attributed to its retail stores — Apple sold 1.25 million machines in the U.S., Canada, and Central and South America.

Last week, before Apple unveiled its sales figures, Gartner estimated Apple's U.S. sales growth at nearly 10 times the industry average, and the company's global growth at more than four times the average.

Gottheil credited two factors. "The effect of Apple's transition to the Intel platform, which allows Macs to run Windows, combined with the disappointment in Microsoft's Vista operating system, has given Apple enormous momentum in the U.S. market," he said.

Apple executives specifically touted sales of the company's brawniest desktop during an earnings conference call with financial analysts. "The Mac Pro sold more units since it debuted with the new Intel processor," said Tim Cook, chief operating officer. He also called out the MacBook Air, the new ultralight notebook that the company introduced during the quarter. "The cannibalization factor was extremely low to the other portables, which is one of the key reasons we were able to have a very minor sequential decline from Q1, where usually it would be much deeper," Cook said.

For the record, the Cupertino, Calif., company posted earnings of $1.05 billion, up from $770 million a year ago, on revenues of $7.51 billion, up from $5.26 billion in 2007. Its profit margin was 32.9%, down from 35.1% in the same quarter a year ago.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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