- Sales of Apple's Macs shrunk 13% last quarter, over the same period in 2017.
- It's a trend that's been going on for a while.
- While Apple says that it's investing in the Mac, it's also had a series of MacBook Pro-related embarrassments that have caused some to doubt its focus.
- It's pretty clear that the future of Apple is the iOS operating system.
Apple reported its quarterly earnings on Tuesday. And while it whiffed slightly on iPhone sales, it still posted a stronger-than-expected quarter, with solid results on the top and bottom lines.
Buried in there, though, is some bad news for Mac enthusiasts. Sales of Apple's legendary line of personal computers in the quarter clocked in at about 3.7 million units — 9% fewer than the quarter before, and a whopping 13% fewer than the same period of 2017. It had an attendant 5% drop in Mac revenue from the same period of 2017.
It's no secret that the PC industry has been shrinking rapidly. Analysts say that PC sales had their first growth quarter in six years, but that it's not expected to last. With consumers continuing to flock to smartphones and, to a lesser extent, tablets, there's generally less room in their lives for traditional PCs.
For its part, Apple has indicated a renewed focus on the Mac. Last year, Apple launched a more powerful all-in-one iMac Pro, and says it will introduce a revamped, high-end Mac Pro workstation next year.
Still, Apple has faced significant backlash from its most recent MacBook Pro design — the 2016 models removed the standard USB and power ports, and replaced them with the more cutting-edge USB-C standard. It meant that customers had to buy expensive, unsightly dongles to support the accessories they already owned.
Worse yet, those MacBook Pros came with a redesigned keyboard, which soon turned out to be controversial: Users complained that the slightest speck of dust could cause keys on the keyboard to stop working altogether. It was a huge embarrassment for a company that prides itself on design, and caused fans to question Apple's commitment.
Apple has tried to turn this around. In recent months, it launched a broad keyboard replacement program for existing MacBook Pro owners, while also launching a refreshed version of the computer with an improved keyboard and more computing horsepower. This redesign, too, proved controversial when customers complained that they weren't getting all of the computing power promised by Apple, though the company soon issued a fix.
The 3.7 million Macs that Apple sold is a drop in the bucket
Under the hood, Apple has announced plans to bring iPhone apps to the Mac, via new tools for developers that will be available next year. The goal, the company has said, is to make the Mac better by bringing a wider range of useful, familiar tools.
At the same time, these earnings results tell the whole tale. While iPhone and iPad sales were both up 1% over the same period in 2017, the Mac took that 13% dip. Even if Apple is no longer posting the massive iPhone growth rates that once it was, it's clear that iOS is the future and the Mac is the past.
Indeed, to put it in perspective, those 3.7 million Macs that Apple sold in the quarter is a drop in the bucket compared to the 41.3 million iPhones. With those kinds of numbers, it's hard to expect software developers to focus their efforts on the Mac, when the iPhone is such a huge opportunity, just in terms of potential audience.
There's no reason to believe that the Mac business is going anywhere — if nothing else, it's historically important to Apple, and remains an iconic PC brand. At the same time, the Mac business is shrinking, and even if it weren't, it would still amount to a fraction of the iPhone business. And there's no reason to believe that will change, now or ever.
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