Q3 Sales of Macs Take a Big Hit Thanks to Late MacBook Pro

15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro with 32 GB RAM

In Q3, 2017 Apple sold 4.3 million Macs, bolstered by WWDC 2017 rollouts. This Q3 the unit number was down to 3.7 million thanks to the out-of-June-quarter launch of the new MacBook Pros in July. Explanations are in order.

Apple's 2018 MacBook Pro. One of the great Macs.
Apple’s 2018 MacBook Pro was “late” compared to 2017. That hurt.

During Apple’s Q3 Earnings Report, CFO Luca Maestri explained how the timing of the MacBook Pro, 2018 model (Coffee lake) refresh hurt the quarterly sales numbers—down by about 15 percent.

It’s likely that there’s a very good reason for the delay from June (last year) to July (this year.) The 2018 MacBook Pro now includes the T2 security chip, requiring additional integration. The MBP had to be certified for heat management. Finally, a new keyboard fix decision probably came later in the engineering cycle than early, as Apple came to grips with the keyboard failure reports.

Observations on Macs

While the above technical items can explain the delay for that one product, it does lead one to surmise that if Apple had been aggressive across the enire Mac lineup, sales would not have taken such a dramatic hit and fall below 4 million for the first time since Q3, 2013.

Customers appear to be hungry for new (Coffee Lake) iMacs and Mac minis. The MacBook is modern, light weight, relatively inexpensive and popular. Yet Apple updated none of these Macs so far in 2018.

It’s hard to know how Apple executives feel about such a visible lapse. But one thing is for sure. When Apple introduces new Macs, sales increase. When there are no new products to select from, customers sit on their hands.

The obvious lack of attention to systematic, regular Mac refreshes across the line is having real world consequences in the Earnings Report that have to be explained. The heat is really on now.

6 thoughts on “Q3 Sales of Macs Take a Big Hit Thanks to Late MacBook Pro

  • John:

    Entertain an heretical point of view.

    It may be that it’s not the Mac, or any one device per se, that drives development and the resources devoted to it, but the platform; and the platform’s interests are best served by concentrating on those devices and services which will provide the greatest gains on impact in uptake and use case to the greatest percentage of the user base.

    If true, then as that platform becomes more complex (eg more devices and services) it will look less and less linear, particularly for any one single device like the Mac, and increasingly organic. This means that some growth periods are characterised primarily by elaboration of complexity and functional capacity and others by expansion and new features in one system (eg wearables, streaming) but and very little, if any, in another system (Macs, iWork suite). Think embryogenesis, and the variable prioritisation of organ systems for growth in the embryo.

    If true, then so long as any specific interest group in the user base, or for that matter industry watchers, investors, analysts and pundits, expect regular stepwise updates for their system of interest or priority, then they risk not only disappointment, but misreading or even missing meaningful and timely growth to platform critical systems. Apple should hope that this is the case for their competition.

  • Why have only the high-end, overpriced MacBook Pro’s been upgraded so far this year? And why haven’t the lower priced laptops been upgraded??? There is a very simple explanation … it’s the back to school shopping season.

    So if you want an overpriced MacBook Pro, Apple will gladly sell you one. Don’t have that kind of money to burn? Well, buy one of their lower priced models with CPUs that are 18 months to 3 years behind the times.

    And then, once Apple has taken your money for one of those two not so good alternatives … and once the back to school shopping season is over and done … wait for it … a fall event where Apple releases new low(er) priced laptops with somewhat current CPUs.

    I’m not an Apple-hater … but this is just plain wrong … isn’t it, Tim Cook?

    Old UNIX Guy

  • The fact that the new MBP’s slipped into Q4 is not a problem.

    Apple using the new MBP’s to boost Mac average sell prices in the Back-To-School period where unit demand is guaranteed to be very solid. As a result, Q4 2018 will be absolutely huge for Macs. Then, with the release of lower priced Macs in the fall, the Christmas quarter (Q1 2019) will be a monster.

    Apple is very savvy at squeezing the most revenues and profits out of the market. Apple certainly has the brand power to do whatever it wants in terms of pricing. The iPhone X and the MacBook Pro are proof of that.

  • The obvious lack of attention to systematic, regular Mac refreshes across the line is having real world consequences in the Earnings Report that have to be explained.

    Well said! If old Apple could do it, why can’t 2018 Apple? And why no Mac mini updates since 2014?

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