Evidence of slowing Mac growth - 2 consecutive quarters of deceleration

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By: switchtoamac at: 7:00 AM on January 23, 2009 | Comments (4)
Although Apple set a new Mac shipment record in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2008 (Q4 2008), Mac shipment growth on a year-over-year basis has shown shows signs of slowing growth (deceleration) for two consecutive quarters.  This trend continued into the first fiscal quarter of 2009 (Q1 2009) as evidenced by the January 21, 2009 earnings release.  Mac growth deceleration last occurred more than two years ago.
The Apple fiscal year
Apple does not use a calendar year to segregate quarters rather, Apple's fiscal year is divided as follows:
  1. First Quarter (Q1) - October, November, December
  2. Second Quarter (Q2) - January, Febuary, March
  3. Third Quarter (Q3) - April, May, June
  4. Fourth Quarter (Q4) - July, August, September
The table below details total Mac shipments over the past thirteen fiscal quarters in thousands of units.  For example, 2611 units indicates 2.611 million units.  The Year/Year Change highlights the percent change in shipments over the comparable quarter from the prior year.  For example, Q4 2008 is compared to Q4 2007 and Q1 2009 is compared to Q1 2008.

mac_slow_jan09.pngQ1 2009 analysis
As shown, Q1 2009 experienced an 8.84 percent year-over-year growth versus Q1 2008, a 35.6 percent deceleration versus the 44.40 percent growth Q1 2008 experienced over Q1 2007.  This growth slowdown occurred during the busiest consumer buying period of the year and during a time of global economic contraction.  Note that Apple released updates to the entire portable line, the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air on October 14, 2008.  Portable shipments hit a new record of 1.796 million units, an increase of 33.83 percent over the year ago quarter.  Desktops on the other hand, declined 25.48 percent over the same period.

Q4 2008 analysis
Q4 2008 experienced 20.66 percent year-over-year growth versus Q4 2007, a 13.8 percent deceleration versus the 34.41 percent growth that Q4 2007 experienced over Q4 2006.  That slowdown occurred despite Apple conducting their most  aggressive back-to-school Mac promotion in the firm's history.  The data clearly shows that Apple was unable to exceed their growth performance from the prior year.

The growth deceleration during Q4 2008 was the first time since Q4 2006 that quarterly Mac shipments have experienced deceleration on a year-over-year basis.  The Q4 2008 to Q1 2009 data mark the first interval during which Apple has experienced two consecutive quarters of Mac shipment deceleration, dating back to Q3 and Q4 2006.

Mac growth deceleration to continue?
Mac shipments are increasing but at a slower rate.  This can be easily seen via the quarterly and aggregate yearly totals.  Not to be lost in the numbers however is the 37.78 percent increase in 2008 Mac shipments versus 2007.  This exceeds the 32.96 percent 2007 experienced over 2006.

On a more granular level, the Q1 2009 and Q4 2008 metrics demonstrate that despite shipping more Macs versus prior comparable quarters, Apple is experiencing slower Mac growth.  Therefore, the issue at hand is if this deceleration trend will continue into future quarters.  The chart below tracks Mac desktop and portable shipments over the past thirteen fiscal quarters.

mac_qtr_jan09.pngThe dramatic drop in desktop shipments was the the culprit for the Mac growth slowdown during Q1 2009 having dropped 25.48 percent from the year ago quarter and 22.22 percent from the prior quarter.  Desktop shipments have fallen for two consecutive quarters and three out of the past four quarters.  Clearly, portables are driving Mac sales and picking up the slack.  Perhaps the rapid decline in desktop shipments can be attributed to a lack of updates to the desktop lineup.  The iMac was last updated in April 2008, the Mac Pro in January 2008, and the Mac mini in August 2007.  Once Apple releases updates to the desktop models, we'll gain insight into buyer intentions and willingness to buy.

4 Reader Comments

Next time you get a chance check the economy, were in the middle of a depression and every body is having a major slow down, this article brings new meaning to the term frigtards.

This report begs the question of how the Mac slowdown compares to the market in general. Does the Mac show a slowdown relative to the market or does it's positive relative growth trend continue?

Um, we are in the middle of a major global economic recession. Apple already commented in the conference call that they are growing while the rest of the PC industry is actually CONTRACTING. The fact that they even had growth at all during these economic times is amazing.

The goal of this article is to simply demonstrate the slowdown in the growth rate. I agree, its a positive that Apple is able to grow given the current economic contraction. I wanted to provide insight into this matter. No need to take it personally!

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