As expected, Apple Wednesday announced that Mac sales fell last quarter, the first time in nearly six years that the company has reported a year-to-year drop-off in Mac sales.
Even so, revenues climbed by 9 percent for the quarter compared to the same period in 2008, and profits jumped 15 percent, largely on the backs of the iPhone and iPod Touch.
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Apple sold 2.2 million Macs during the quarter, a decline of 3 percent from last year. But Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, argued that the number should be seen as a major win for the company, considering that research firm IDC last week pegged the overall personal computer industry decline at a steeper 7 percent.
"To exceed [the industry average] in this horrendous economy is quite an accomplishment," Cook said. While CEO Steve Jobs remains on medical leave, Cook is the company's head executive, in charge of day-to-day operations.
"They have every right to be as happy as they appeared to be," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "The fact is, in this economy, they've done quite well."
Apple sold 1.4 million notebooks and 818,000 desktops in its second fiscal quarter, which ended March 31 -- a decline of 2 percent for the former, a decrease of 4 percent for the latter over the same quarter last year. The drop in desktop sales, however, was significantly less than in previous quarters; last quarter, for example, desktops were down 25 percent from the same period the year before.
Cook attributed the renewed strength of Mac desktops to the one-day refresh of its entire line last month, even though Gottheil at the time had called the roll-out "underwhelming." Cook argued otherwise, saying that sales of the new iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro surged in the last weeks of the quarter.
Asked about netbooks, the category of small, inexpensive notebooks that has been responsible for an increase in Windows PC sales, Apple's executives again dismissed the concept as unworthy of their attention.
"When I look at what's being sold [as netbooks] I see terrible software and junkie hardware," Cooks said. "It's just not a good experience, and not something that we would put our brand on. I think it's a stretch to call them a personal computer."
But as before, Apple hedged. "We're always looking at the space," Cook added. "If we can find a way when we can deliver an innovative product, then we'll do that. We do have ideas in that space, and the product pipeline for the Mac is fantastic."
"They hemmed and hawed, but I think that they're leaning more toward something slotted between the iPod Touch and the [US]$999 MacBook," said Gottheil, referring to his prediction that although Apple won't launch a netbook-style copycat, it will introduce something this year to compete with those PCs on price.
"From a platform point of view, it'll be an iPod Touch, but from a form factor point of view, it's got to be a good deal bigger," said Gottheil.