Tuesday Talk ~ numbers


Apple’s Mac has finally joined the slowdown in desktop computer sales. While PC sales declined over the last few years, Mac sales – bizarrely – kept rising, but that’s no longer true. Apple needs to release some very good new models of Macs to gain back some ground, but even if it does, the worldwide decline in desktop sales may mitigate against Apple ever regaining the market share it developed over the last five years.

Model-wise, the MacBook Pro could do with a refresh. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the little MacBook is overpriced and underpowered, but it did debut great new tech that should be put into the MacBook Pro.

A new MacBook Pro I am happy to speculate on. Partly as I need one: my 2012 MacBook Pro is still a speed demon but its battery has dropped to 85% capacity over the years (it’s a hard worker) and, if Apple follows form, a new model with be lighter, slimmer, more powerful and better all round. I’m not sure it will have an OLED touch-bar, as some hope, partly as every rendering I’ve seen of this idea looks butt-ugly to me, and doesn’t seem to fit in with Apple’s aesthetic, but I’m happy to be swayed to the contrary. Filed Apple patents have outlined illuminated touch controls embedded within a MacBook’s chassis, while others protect rights to switchless keyboards and illuminated trackpads. We’ll see.

As for other models, it has been widely speculated that Apple may even drop the little-loved Mac mini completely (I have no opinion on this) and maybe even the Mac Pro. And that idea concerns me.

The real professional users in the Apple world are the people everyone else looks up to. If a really heavy-hitting Mac user advises you on which Mac to buy, you listen. But pros are disenchanted with the round Mac Pro as it’s hard to expand and could do with much better video cards (the PC world is way ahead of Apple here: you can get much better video cards in much cheaper PCs, and that’s actually been tempting pro users to switch to PC).The Mac Pro was a grand machine in its own right – or at least, it was on release in 2014 – but now it needs some love, sure. But deletion? The idea fills me with disquiet.

As for actual Mac sales numbers, Apple Insider has pointed out that Apple’s share of the global PC market took a hit during the challenging second quarter of this year. Apple went down to fifth place among the world’s top computer manufacturers. Analyst firm Gartner put Apple’s worldwide marketshare at 7.1% (this is a lot higher in some markets – here, Australia, the US, Germany …) during the second quarter. That means year-over-year shipments dropped by 200,000 units, down from 4.8 million in 2015. This 4.9% sales contraction may have been the worst performance put in by a top-five vendor, but it’s in line with the 5.2% decline in overall PC shipments. Some of these drops have come from price hikes against the stronger US dollar; that’s certainly the case in New Zealand.

Apple’s iPhone numbers seem solid, still, though, and an iPhone 7 will give sales a boost. I’ve mentioned before that we have a confusion of models these days, and that presents a muddy picture to consumers. Apple could wave a Jobsian clarification wand here to its benefit. I imagine the 5SE will remain in the lineup, and the 6 will disappear while the 6s drops in price, but that doesn’t help the confusion much, does it? Especially if, as one rumour claims, there will be three models of 7 …

We will know in September. Hopefully. It seems a long way away.