Mac Sales Beginning to Stabilize with Refresh Looming

It appears that American consumers are beginning to hold out on new Mac purchases ahead of the major redesign that Apple is expected to make to its Mac lineup of desktops and notebooks. Apple is said to begin production of the new MacBook Pro in May or June, while new, thinner iMacs with anti-reflective displays will allegedly launch in June or July. The MacBook Pro has not been updated since it was given a minor refresh last October, and the iMac was last updated in May 2011 with improved graphics and support for Thunderbolt.

Presumably due to these lack of hardware updates, Mac shipments are down 4% year-over-year for the first quarter of the year, said Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty in a research note today. Fortunately, Huberty notes that international growth of the Mac will help to offset the flatline sales in the United States; however, she suggests that the growth on a global basis isn’t as high as she originally suspected. Moreover, strong sales of the iPad and iPhone will surely keep revenues balanced for Apple, so the Cupertino-based company has little to worry about.

Although the US retail market improved in March, Apple shipment growth decelerated as the company faced much tougher Y/Y comparisons due to a notebook refresh this time last year. US retail data suggest Apple shipments fell 4% Y/Y in C1Q12 compared to our estimate of 15% global Mac unit growth. We expect faster international growth to offset some of the deceleration in the US. In fact, the divergence between international and US growth has accelerated from about four points in prior quarters to 15 points in C4Q11. More importantly, we expect demand upside from iPhone and iPad (83% of gross profit) to more than offset any Mac downside (9% of gross profit).

Apple is likely waiting until Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors are ready until they refresh their current Mac offerings. But the lack of a Mac refresh might not be the only reason why Mac sales have stabilized, as growth of the PC market overall has slipped lately altogether, with PC sales down 10% – 15% year-over-year for the quarter. Top-tier manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell are expected to announce improved sales numbers in most recent months, although, so that could help to bring some upside to the PC industry. Do you plan on buying a new Mac?


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