Perspectives on Mac and PC Shipments and Sales for 2016

2 minute read
| Analysis

Both Gartner and IDC reports are out for 2016 Mac and PC shipments. They are in good agreement. But the reports on the reports as well as the reports themselves are often challenging to digest. There are worldwide vs U.S. shipments, and that’s not the same as sales for PCs. There’s year-over-year for the total year and for the 4th quarter shipments. There’s Apple’s ranking, and there’s also the issue of whether Apple lost ground against PCs.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Cautious optimism. New MacBook Pros the start of something big in 2017?

Rather than delve into free text, it seems more helpful to make some bullet point observations.

  1. Compared to 2015, total PC shipments in 2016 were down by 5.7 (Gartner) to 6.2 (IDC) percent.
  2. Two companies, HP and Dell, did better than the industry average and had small growth. At least according to IDC.
  3. Apple’s total Mac shipments for the year were down about 10 percent. That means Mac shipments were down by more than the PC industry average.
  4. The popularity of Apple’s new 2016 MacBook Pros could not offset a year of declining Mac sales compared to 2015.
  5. Apple’s share of the worldwide PC market, for many years, had been increasing. Apple has been neck-and-neck with Asus for 4th spot overall, but has fallen back into 5th after a nearly 10 percent decline.
  6. It’s difficult to determine whether declining Mac sales on 2016, by about a million units, can be accounted for by defections to other platforms. That’s despite Microsoft’s non-quantitative claims.
  7. At my local Microsoft store (Park Meadows Mall), I inquired about the sales of the Surface Studio. The response was that “We can’t keep them in stock.” But that could mean small shipments and correspondingly small sales. Microsoft hasn’t released specific sales numbers to my knowledge.

    Microsoft Surface Studio

    Is this Microsoft Surface Studio, basically a 28-inch iPad, a drop in the bucket? Or part of a new wave of premium PCs?

  8. Two companies, HP and Microsoft, are making specific moves into certain technical markets as a result of Apple’s failure to update most of its Mac product line in 2016. This poor performance by Apple has inspired the competition. Plus, that competition finally has a respectable OS (Windows 10) to marry with advanced hardware.
  9. It has been predicted that PC shipments would continue to decline in 2016 and return to mild growth in 2017. In part, that’s because of the superiority of Windows 10 compared to Windows 8 (inventory finally depleted) and, in part, due to the appearance of premium, mobile PCs—which are very attractive and also offer higher profit margins.

As a result of the last item above, Apple will need to return to growth in Mac shipments in 2017 to keep from losing yet more ground. In a recent editorial, I pointed out that Windows 10 is designed for a touch-sensitive future while the macOS is not. As a result, for the first time in awhile, in a reversal, a rise in PC shipments by HP, Dell and Microsoft could be sustained against the Mac. It’s something to be monitored.

Apple observers are cautiously optimistic that 2017 will be a much better, more exciting year for the Mac. Tim Cook has said:

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to [Mac] desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

And now we wait.

5 Comments Add a comment

  1. webjprgm

    “Nobody should worry about that.” Oh but I do, because I want to know the definition of “great”, and how long it will take to ship them. (I’m not in the market right now, but I do own some shares of Apple and I also want great desktop choices some years in the future when I will be in the market for a new machine.) Definitely worrying, but I’ll give Tim Cook a chance to prove he’s right before I start shouting that the sky is falling.

  2. BurmaYank

    It almost looks to me now in 2017 that Apple has so badly taken its eye off primarily making great products for at least a year or two, that it’s offering practically no reason why anyone (not drinking Apple koolaid) should want/need to choose a Mac (instead of a Surface or a HP minidesktop) anymore.

    If marketing has now become as important as product development in Apple, then Apple is no longer the product-driven enterprise it always has been – if product development is not more important than anything else in Apple, then it’s relatively a lie to claim that Apple cares about product AT ALL.

  3. JonGl

    I’m sure Apple is committed to the Mac and good laptops. My problem is that their vision may not be where their customers are. Notice that the manufacturers who are advancing all offer good touchscreens on their laptops (and with the Surface Studio, a desktop). Instead of that, we got a touchbar…

    I always repeated the mantra–a touchscreen on a laptop is not an ideal interface, but now that I’ve gone heretic with my Surface Pro, I have to admit I was wrong. In fact, while reading this article, I scrolled the entire thing by flipping on the screen with my finger resting on my leg. I find I do this all the time, rather than using the trackpad. Windows 10, while not perfect, is quite usable with touch. I’m personally banking on the touch support to only improve over time.

    I’m going to guess that within a few years, Apple will have seen the handwriting on the screen, and put touch on MacOS. And when they do, I predict it will be better than Windows, and then I’ll return. 😉 But I really want a detachable keyboard like the Surface has. While I find Microsoft’s hardware surprisingly good, and Windows much better than I half-expected, I still expect Apple to join this world, and then I can return to the fold. 🙂

    But as I posted in a comment in another post, it’s possible that, if Apple really wants to change the game, rather than keep pushing MacOS into the future, they will move iOS to the desktop, together with desktop features (access to the file system, multitasking to name a couple). But it’s all just speculation and wishful thinking, in the end. 🙂

  4. skipaq

    I am in need of a new larger screen desktop work computer for the first time in about eight years. I have a 2013 13″ MacBook Pro and have considered updating it and buying a 27″ monitor. On the other hand, a new (hopefully a spring updated) iMac with 16 GB Ram and 27″ monitor would be at least $1000 less and I would still have my MacBook. That is what I have chosen to do.

    As far as switching platforms goes; that isn’t going to happen. I have thousands invested in work specific software. I have over 30 years experience and work files. The limited time that I needed to use various Windows systems over the last few years have not raised my expectations for using them regularly. The thought of purchasing, learning and file system migration make that option a trash can toss.

    Come on Apple, get that iMac update out by April/May.

  5. brilor

    Thank you John for summarizing the data; not a trivial job I’m sure. That article’s ( at the “cautiously optimistic” link ) quote of Cook reminding everyone of Apple’s “change the world” attitude and “good isn’t good enough” makes me think Apple has a redesign planned for the Mac Pro. Even though it wouldn’t have been easy ( custom/proprietary GPUs on that machine etc. ), Apple could have made incremental minor upgrades but didn’t. Obviously, there are several possible ( and mostly logically valid ) interpretations but Cook’s optimism ( or call it marketing hype ) suggests more than Mac Pro’s cancellation and external GPUs for the iMac. Of course, this is just my wishful thinking. Brian

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