Mac sales slide 3%, contribute smallest-ever portion of total revenue

iPad plummet continues as tablet sales plunge 25%; eighth-straight quarter of contraction

iMacs 2015

Apple yesterday said it sold 5.3 million Macs in the December quarter, a 3% decline from the same period the year before.

The year-over-year downturn in Mac sales was the first since the third quarter of 2013, and only the fourth overall since 2007. But it was a decline nonetheless, a drop of about 200,000 systems.

Even so, Apple was able to keep the Mac sales fall-off smaller than that of the PC industry overall. IDC recently estimated the business as down 11% for the December quarter, while rival Gartner tapped the contraction at 8%. Global personal computer shipments have contracted for four full years, according to both IDC and Gartner. During that same stretch, Mac sales declined in four of the 16 quarters.

ipad sales 4q15 Apple

iPad sales dropped for the eighth straight quarter. The only bright spot for Apple is that the decline has been less steep than the increase during the tablet's heyday. 

The Mac's latest quarter was also its fourth-largest ever, behind only September 2015's record-setting 5.7 million, and the third and fourth quarters of 2014, when Apple unloaded 5.5 million Macs in each.

Revenue from Mac sales was about $6.7 billion, or $200 million less than the fourth quarter of 2014. Mac revenue represented 8.9% of Apple's total of $75.9 billion; that was the smallest slice ever for the personal computer segment.

It wasn't a surprise that the Mac was the shortest of the three legs of Apple's hardware revenue stool: The fourth quarter has become the iPad's biggest, and for one three-month span that was again the case. iPad unit sales may have plunged 24.7% -- the largest year-over-year decline ever -- but the tablet accounted for 9.3% of Apple's total revenue for the quarter, scratching its way into the No. 2 spot, albeit way behind the iPhone.

iPad sales have contracted for the last eight consecutive quarters, and in nine of the last 10.

As it has for several quarters as iPad sales continued to shrink, Apple said little of the downturn, with Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri choosing instead to trumpet customer satisfaction data on the tablet -- a tiresome diversion by this point -- and ticking off wins where corporate customers have adopted the iPad, particularly the larger, more expensive iPad Pro.

During the conference call to go over the December quarter's earnings, Wall Street analysts again passed on asking questions about the iPad and its sales, or for that matter, the Mac.

They had bigger fish to fry.

Apple sold about as many iPhones in the December quarter as it did the year before (unit sales rose just 0.4%), the slowest pace since the smartphone's 2007 debut. Because the iPhone is the cornerstone of Apple's unprecedented climb in revenue -- it accounted for 68% of the company's total December quarter revenue -- the flat sales line resurrected questions about Apple's overall growth.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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