The Mac Still Proves a Winner for Apple

News Analysis: Despite all the praise lavished on the iPod and other new consumer devices, the Mac has been the real winner since Apple started using Intel chips last year.

Apple may not want the word "computer" in its title anymore, but its hard to ignore the impact of the Macintosh on the bottom line.

Despite a report of flat shipments, plus all the attention given to the iPod, iPhone and Apple TV in the last month, the Mac had a solid quarter for the period that ended on Dec. 30. Apple reported selling about 1.6 million of its signature product during the quarter. The Mac also saw its revenue share increase by about 40 percent compared to last year.

Apple released its first quarter financial figures on Jan. 17, and the company announced its net income rose more than 30 percent compared to last year.

The recent upswing in Mac sales follows the availability of the first Intel-based machines in January of 2006. In addition, many analysts believe the Mac is benefiting from a "halo" effect from the iPod.

For whatever reason, the Mac numbers for the whole year remain impressive and analysis is calling for additional growth as the company moves more into digital entertainment and away from the enterprise market.

According to both Garter and IDC, Apple saw its U.S. share of PC shipments increase about 30 percent from 2005 to 2006, which far outstrips the rest of the market.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read David Morgensterns opinion on Jobs keynote at the 2007 Macworld Expo.

Internationally, while not as robust as the U.S. market, Apple saw its share of the PC shipments grow three times as much as the rest of the market during 2006, according to Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray of Minneapolis.

"The December 06 quarter marks the eighth quarter out of the last nine that the Mac has outgrown the computer market internationally and in the United States," Munster wrote in a report to investors on Jan. 18. "We believe that Apple is gaining momentum with Mac sales."

Munster added that Apple typically experiences a downturn in Mac sales during the first fiscal quarter but that usually has a minimal impact on the rest of the year.

While Apple might not be lavishing that much attention on the Mac in recent months, Martin Kariithi, an analyst with Technology Business Research, in Hampton, N.H., said that Apple will use the Mac as the base for its venture into the more lucrative market of digital home and consumer products.

"I think the Mac will follow that line of thinking," said Kariithi, referring to CEO Steve Jobs keynote address at this months Macworld Expo that ushered in the era of the iPhone and Apple TV.

"The companys emphasis on the Mac has not been the highest in the last few months, but I think they now view it as a device that will help create the whole Apple ecosystem," Kariithi said.

Next Page: The Mac momentum.