There have been reports over the last week or so about the decline in Mac desktop sales. I believe there are a few reasons for this trend.
The first of these being just the general trend of consumers to choose laptops over desktops. With the portability of laptops and the smaller physical footprint, many consumers are choosing to go with laptops instead of desktop computers. Most of the laptops on the market are perfectly fine for a vast majority of consumers. The typical user doesn’t need to be transcoding 1080p video, editing 1GB Photoshop files, or even running high end games. They’re just surfing the web, chatting with friends, and doing some minor photo editing and video tinkering. Therefore the need for high-end graphics and large capacity (over 500GB) hard drives isn’t necessary.
The second being the economy. Yes, the economy is in the tank and we all know it, but that doesn’t stop people from buying computers. We know this because Apple had its best quarter from October 2008 to December 2008 with sales of 2.52 million Macs. Which by my opinion is a good number of sales of anything. Most of these were probably laptops, with some desktops sprinkled in there as well. New laptops were announced on October 14th, early within the quarter, providing ample time for holiday sales as well as those who were waiting until the refreshed laptops came out.
The third reason being the lack of up-to-date desktops available from Apple. The Mac Mini, which is positioned to be their ‘switcher’ device, is still running the same hardware from August 2007. While some people are willing to sacrifice newness for cost, the likelihood of people agreeing to purchase equipment that is essentially from May 2007 (the Macbooks from that time have the same specs as the current Mac Minis). This is completely unacceptable in most people’s opinions, and I fully agree. In addition, the price of the Mac minis needs to drop by $200 or more in order to have people buy more of them. A $399 Mac Mini is something people are willing to buy. Particularly if they end up using it as a media center type device.
The iMacs are a bit more up-to-date since the last update to the iMac line was back in April 2008. These will probably get an update within the next few months. They still need the Mini-display port, graphics updates and the like. There have been rumors of these being updated since Apple has told their distribution chain not to expect any more 24″ iMacs.
The fourth thing being that I see desktops becoming more of a niche item. To be used for those specialty things like video compression, RAID, large photo editing and very resource intensive applications. The physical footprint of a desktop is not something people are willing to commit to anymore, plus why wouldn’t you just want to get a laptop for general use?
I didn’t even being to talk about the Mac Pro because most consumers aren’t likely to purchase that. It seems to be enthusiasts or those who really do need the power. If they need the power, then they’re going to do research as to their best options in what to purchase. Suffice it to say that the Mac Pro is WAY too overpriced and needs to come down in price.
Overall, if Apple wants to be able to continue to sell their desktop lines, they will need to keep updated as well as keeping the prices low. Yes, I understand that you want to keep your 33% or higher margins, but if you sacrifice the margins on the desktop lines, at least the MacMini, you will be in a better position in the long run to pull more users over. Those who are resistant to switch might be willing to drop $400 to try out a Mac, but definitely not $600 for a machine that’s fast approaching 2 years old.