Sadly, Mac Sales Starting to Indicate an Overall Decline

Apple's Mac family with macOS Mojave
Mac mini 2018
The “beloved” 2018 Mac mini. Image credit: Apple

It takes awhile before a trend in sales becomes definitive. The Mac’s downward sales for each Apple fiscal year are showing a trend now.

For some time now, I’ve been plotting the total Mac sales for each of Apple’s fiscal years. While the sales in each quarter can fluctuate and even increase year-over-year, it’s the accumulated sales each year that I routinely plot.

Up through Q417 it was hard to identify a noticeable trend. But, now, my sense is that Q418 punctuates an emerging trend. Here’s the data I have.

Mac sales by fiscal year.
Mac unit sales by fiscal year (in millions).

The real question has been this. Has Apple’s sporadic attention to regular Mac updates, over the past few years, cost Apple in unit sales? Of course, as of next quarter, Apple has declared that unit sales no longe matter. And the company may have a point.

[Apple Declares That Unit Sales Are No Longer Relevant. The Impact ]

Apple has just reported that Mac sales set a revenue record for all time. That’s not surprising given that the computational power and features of the Macs, notably the iMac Pro and MacBook Pros, are increasing considerably. Apple customers are feeling the bite of that cost trend.

But the problem is this. More Macs in the hands of customers means more synergy in the community. More apps. More consumer engagement. More education focus.

Fewer Macs sold each year is a bad thing, independent of how much money Apple earns. Taken to a logical extreme, Apple could sell half the Macs at twice the price and no one would be very happy about the Mac’s future. Apple’s fiscal approach seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The smartphone market is Apple’s forte. I expect Apple will do whatever it takes to flourish there. But Apple’s lack of devoted, regular updates, the new MacBook Air and Mac mini notwithstanding, creates a more fragile situation. And no amount of smugness over a single revenue record will provide a continuing foundation for this beloved, according to Apple, product category.

7 thoughts on “Sadly, Mac Sales Starting to Indicate an Overall Decline

  • This is not overly surprising. Walk into an Apple store today and the vast majority of products you see other than iPhones are things that have not been refreshed in years. The Mac Mini is 5 years old, the iMac design is 5 years old, the Mac Pro was introduced years ago and has never been updated, the MacBook Air is absolutely ancient and still being sold at its original price, and the rest of Apple’s laptops have not been meaningfully refreshed in several years.

    Apple’s product line is just OLD, and has been stale for several years now. Of course this is all about to change somewhat next week with the introduction of the long-awaited new Mac Mini and the new MacBook Air and the new iPad line. So really I don’t think it is odd at all that Apple’s sales have stagnated. I have needed to buy a new Mac Mini to replace my old one for a couple years now, but I am not going to buy a 5 year-old computer, just not going to do that, that would be silly. The same can be said about a lot of the products they sell.

    The past 5 years has been a dead zone for Apple in product refreshes and updates, partly because, I think, that Intel’s processor updates have been stagnant as well, plus I really do believe that the building of the new spaceship headquarters over the past 5 years has had some sort of effect on all this as well. I have no evidence of that, but the coincidence cannot be circumstantial.

  • Kudos John for having the fortitude to be honest about it, unlike other parts of the press.

    Another thing no one noticed or pointed out, most mac sales went to NON MAC purchasers. So after getting a sizable upgrade with the MBP 2018 machine, 6 core, most mac users chose not to upgrade, despite it being the most significant upgrade. Perhaps all the price gouging (3200 for 4TB drive when 2 NVMe sticks at the same speed can be had for 1200, and 7.6TB SSDs can be had for under 1500) have kept the loyal mac fans away.

    It was a weird call on a number of levels. But listening to deeds, rather than words, Apple just doesnt care about the Mac. And it’s loyal user base has noticed. What apple has failed to figure out is the Halo effect givith, and the Halo effect may take’th away as well. Losing long time mac power users/pros/enthusiasts will effect the iOS market as well, eventually. Some people are just doomed to not learn from history, and repeating it.

    That said, Apple is completely on fire with regard to revenue and margin and nothing will change that till at least next Sept where much, again, will depend on the phone offerings.

  • I remember the day when Steve said “we make products that WE like and we hope others will like them too”. No longer true with Apple. The new Apple has made the bottom line and investor returns priority. Changing the world is not in Tim’s DNA – despite his lip-service to worshiping Steve.

    This article points out what many like me are feeling. Agreed, Apple’s increasing prices by 20% pretty much across the board on their new offerings means they’re trying to increase profit margins per item to make up for lower sales. Unfortunately, for me as their customer, it means I can no longer afford to upgrade as often as I used to. I will keep my MacBook, iMac, iPhone and iPad another two, maybe three, years longer. I suppose that’s not a bad thing though. The constant upgrade treadmill is exhausting and expensive. While I’d love the new shiny glass and aluminium, my current devices still work well for my needs. Apple will get less of my money in the long run but that’s ok.

    1. Exactly. Apple has been pushing the iPad as a replacement for a laptop. It should not surprise anyone if Mac sales start to decline as people take Apple’s advice. I know I do not have a MacBook any more. I use my iPad for all of my mobile computing. Much of my writing, and all of my art and video editing is on my iPad Pro. Yes I have a Mac, a 2 year old iMac that I use a lot when I’m at home, but the vast majority of my computing is on my iPad.

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