Preview: Apple's Q4 2006 Financial Earnings - Mac Sales Increase

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By: switchtoamac at: 5:08 AM on October 10, 2006 | Comments (5)
On Wednesday, October 18, 2006 at 2pm PT / 5pm ET, Apple Computer will announce its Q4 (fourth quarter) 2006 and Fiscal Year 2006 earnings.  The company will also conduct a Conference Call with analysts.  This post is a preview into the earning report as prior quarter reports and events of 2006 are analyzed.  The focus of this post is Mac unit sales.

The following is a summary of Apple's 2006 Mac Unit sales for Q1, Q2, and Q3:

Wall Street, investors, Apple enthusiasts, and most importantly PC manufacturers will be looking at the the 2006 to 2005 year over year comparison for Q4.  The upcoming numbers will be measured against the following Q4 2005 numbers:

On September 11, 2006 investment firm Credit Suisse upped their estimates for Apple's Q4 earnings on anticipation of better than expected MacBook sales.

Switch To A Mac Analysis and Commentary

Q4 2006 will mark the eight straight quarter of at least 1 million Mac unit sales dating back to Q1 2005:

The 2006 fiscal fourth quarter marked the end of the Intel transition as Apple introduced the MacPro and Intel based Xserv on August 7, 2006.

For an understanding of Apple's earning report, we need to review how Apple's fiscal quarters are divided.  Apple does not use a calendar year for it's fiscal year rather, Apple's fiscal year runs as follows:
  • First Quarter (Q1) - October, November, December
  • Second Quarter (Q2) - January, Febuary, March
  • Third Quarter (Q3) - April, May, June
  • Fourth Quarter (Q4) - July, August, September

If you look at the data thus far for fiscal year 2006, the numbers show that Q3 experienced a 16.2 percent rise in Mac unit sales versus Q2.  Driving sales were shipments of the popular MacBook portable following its May 16, 2006 release.  Keep the mid May release date in mind, it's a very significant date because it gave Apple only slightly more than six weeks to "book" MacBook sales in Q3.  Third quarter Mac sales measured 1,327,000 units of which 798,000 were credited to portables, that's 60 percent of all Macs sold.  Apple does not break down shipments by model so we don't know how many of those 798,000 were credited to MacBooks, MacBook Pros, iBooks, or PowerBooks.  It is however logical to assume that many buyers waited to purchase Intel based Macs instead of the prior generation PowerPC based iBooks and PowerBooks.  Therefore, a significant percentage of the 798,000 can most likely be attributed to MacBook and MacBook Pro units.

Fourth Quarter Analysis and Predictions
The fourth quarter marked a significant milestone for Apple Computer.  Q4 2006 was the first quarter in which Apple had a full line of Intel based portables, PowerPC portable were no longer available for purchase during the quarter.  With portables now outselling desktops, the quarter will serve as a proxy for Mac portable demand and popularity.

In my May 17, 2006 post titled The MacBook Release - Strategic and Just In Time, I explained how Apple timed the release of the MacBook and how the company would strategically release Mac revisions for the remainder of the year in an effort capitalize on unit sales for each quarter and to prevent sales spikes in an effort to demonstrate consistent and healthy Mac unit sales growth. I gave my predictions when the PowerMac replacement would be released as well as when Apple would introduce revisions to the iMac and MacBook Pro.  I stated:

    My expectations on future Mac releases are as follows:

  •     PowerMac replacement will be announced next fiscal quarter which runs from July to September
  •     iMac and MacBook Pro updates prior to the 2006 Holiday Shopping Season

Thus far, my predictions have been accurate.  I was right to predict that Apple would replace the PowerMac during the fiscal fourth quarter, they did that when they announced the MacPro on August 7, 2006.  The first pat of the second prediction has come true.  Apple released iMac updates on September 6, 2006 in advance of the holiday buying season.  I still expect that the MacBook Pro will see a revision prior to the start of the holiday buying season.  I am skeptical on a MacBook revision prior to Macworld 2007 but won't rule it out.

What's important is that the Q4 numbers will finally demonstrate demand from the professional buyer.  Professional users waited 14 months after the June 2005 Intel transition announcement before they could finally get their hands on Intel based Professional Macintosh Workstations.  That equates to 14 months of pent up demand.  In addition, there was a 14 month delay and corresponding 14 month period of demand prior to Apple shipping Intel based Xserv servers.

Other Key events and developments during the fourth quarter:
In my view, there were three other key events and developments during the quarter.

  1. Release of education iMac
  2. Back to school buying season
  3. Apple's back to school promotion

The beginning of the quarter marked the release of the education iMac on July 5, 2006.  The model, designed specifically for education customers, replaced the eMac and was showcased at the National Educational Computing Conference in San Diego, California.  By releasing the education iMac at the beginning of the quarter, it gave Apple an entire quarter to book orders.  Note that most orders would have been placed prior to the start of the academic year so orders would have been weighted during July and August.

Institution purchases aside, Apple most likely had a blow out quarter from the student buyer especially when the back to school promotion is considered.  The promotion which ran through September 16, 2006 gave qualified students who purchased an iPod at the same time they purchased select Macs up to a $179 rebate.  The ability to boot Macs into both OS X and Windows via Apple's Boot Camp beta will have been a popular option for many education buyers.

Switch To A Mac Prediction
I expect Mac unit sales to trump analyst and Wall Street expectations.  Taking the above discussion and my previous analysis of Apple market share increases into consideration, I conclude that Apple at least maintained a 16 percent increase in Mac unit sales between the fourth and third quarters.  I fully expect that Apple most likely saw somewhere close to a 20 percent increase in Mac unit sales as the Mac is rapidly becoming a popular and viable choice for today's computer buyer.  As a result, I expect that Apple would have shipped close to if not 1 million portables, and upwards of 640,000 desktops equating to a total of 1.64 million Macs during the fourth quarter.

I believe that many switchers and "new to Mac" customers will have played a significant role in fueling the increase.

5 Reader Comments

A 20% increase is surely a possibiity. Perhaps your numbers are conservative.

I guess we'll know on October 18 if your numbers are in the ballpark. Either way, Mac sales are sure to have increased.

Apple will have a all time record quarter. I haven't see this many sales of Macs since 1988.


I just bought my first imac and love it. I will be buying a second shortly.

If there was vere a time to BUY AAPL-IT IS CERTAINLY NOW!!!!!!!!!!!! This will be a blow-out quarter, far better than anyone expected. BUY BUY BUY as Cramer would say!!!!!!!!! Hell I did TODAY. Good luck to all my AAPL investors. As Jackie Gleason once said, "And away we go-APPLE"


Nice article, I hope Apple does well. Next time though, just a real graphics program and not M$ office. It's charts are fugly. :-)

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