Apple Earnings Show Rising Mac Sales

The iPod's success is no secret, but analysts are intrigued by Mac market growth in a traditionally slow quarter. (The Channel Insider)

Industry analysts examining Apples Wednesday earnings statement concurred that the most interesting information revealed was the strong growth of Macintosh computer sales.

As discussed in Apple Computer Inc.s fiscal third quarter conference call, sales of Macintosh computers have risen 35 percent over the year-ago quarter, which gave the Apple products triple the sales rate of other computer vendors.

"To me, there were two standout numbers" in Apples results, said Charles Wolf, a New York-based analyst at Needham & Co. LLC. (Wolf owns shares of Apple stock.) "Clearly, the iPod shipment number was an upside surprise from the consensus estimate," he said, but added that "more significant were the Mac shipping numbers."

Wolf said that up until the previous quarter, Mac sales were slow, "But now were seeing growth."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read Apples plans to make Podcasting mainstream.

Wolf said he did not know whether the sales increase arose from the so-called "halo" effect from Windows users buying iPods and then buying Macs, or from people moving to the Mac platform due to rising concern over viruses and spyware.

Either way, however, Wolf said, the numbers "would suggest that there are many Windows users switching."

Similarly, Tim Bajarin, president and analyst for the Campbell, Calif.-based Creative Strategies, said, "You have to give Apple credit—the iPod is doing great—but the surprise is that Mac sales are up."

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about Apples decision to switch to Intel processors for the Mac.

The sales increase can be attributed to two things, Bajarin said. First was that the company was "more aggressive" in marketing its Apple stores, which Apple said should number over 110 worldwide by the end of the year.

Bajarin said that the storefront presence not only encouraged people to have hands-on time with Macs, but exposed Windows-based iPod users to Macs, perhaps for the first time.

The second reason, Bajarin said, was that Apple has continued to push its "switch" campaign, though more on a local basis through the stores than through national television marketing campaigns. "Apple has been great in using the stores to push the role of Macs in managing digital lifestyle issues," he said.

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