Apple Holds PCs Back, Again

The tables have turned on Apple . The company that was making computers and laptops practically obsolete with the introduction of the iPad three years ago is now the only major player not growing domestically. Apple's tablet may have sent the PC industry reeling, but now a dip in popularity of its own Macs finds Dell , Hewlett-Packard , and Lenovo having the last laugh.

Apple's tablet held PCs back in recent years, but now Apple's revolution is only holding itself back.

Industry tracker IDC is out with its latest quarterly update on PC shipments. It's an estimate -- only the PC makers themselves will make it official when they report in the coming weeks -- but IDC's typically close to the mark in its snapshots. 

Globally, PC shipments fell 7.6%, making this the sixth consecutive quarter in which PCs have posted year-over-year declines. Closer to home, the news was substantially better. IDC's research shows that stateside shipments only slipped 0.2% during the third calendar quarter.

Now let's pick on the Mac daddy.


Q3 2013


Q3 2012




4.439 million


4.291 million




3.479 million


3.402 million




1.906 million


2.146 million




1.720 million


1.368 million




1.123 million


0.982 million




3.760 million


4.268 million




16.426 million


16.456 million



Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, Oct. 9, 2013.

Of the five largest PC manufacturers, Apple was the only one going the wrong way. Let's go one step further. Let's back Macs and MacBooks out entirely. Take Apple out of the mix, and PC shipments in this country went from 14.31 million during last year's third quarter to 14.52 million this time around. Ex-Apple, PC shipments in this country climbed 1.5%.

That's great news for the PC industry, though seeing Lenovo and Toshiba as the biggest gainers suggest that a lot of the growth is coming from cheaper laptops. Hewlett-Packard and Dell have also had to play limbo with lower prices to woo casual PC users from going with a tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard. In other words, Apple may be losing market share in terms of shipments, but it should fare better in terms of revenue share.

The strong gains outside of Apple are still impressive. It validates Hewlett-Packard's pop on Wednesday, after CEO Meg Whitman offered a rosy view of her turnaround strategy for the PC giant. Dell shareholders may now feel as if they were robbed, getting cashed out just as the the outlook improves. However, let's see if this kind of uptick outside of Apple is sustainable or profitable.

There may be signs of life here, but let's wait for the pulse readings. 

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