Apple loses US market share as sales slide 23%

Falls to No. 4 spot, Acer leapfrogs to No. 3 on the back of netbook sales.

Apple's share of the US computer market dropped nearly 16% in the fourth quarter of 2008 as the economy continued its freefall, a research analyst said Thursday.

According to Gartner's preliminary estimates, Apple sold 1.25 million machines in the U.S. during the last three months of 2008, an 8% increase year-to-year over the same period in 2007, but down 23% from the quarter before . Apple's performance dumped it into fourth place, a fall of one spot, behind Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer.

For the quarter, Apple accounted for 8% of all the machines sold in the U.S, a 16% decline from the 9.5% in the year's third quarter. However, its sales share was still up from 2007's final quarter's number of 6.7%.

The poorer showing is not a complete surprise, since Apple historically sees a drop in sales share in the fourth quarter because of its strong back-to-school sales in the third quarter. Even so, the company continued to beat the U.S. average, down a dismal 10.1%, and posted positive numbers, something Dell and HP, the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. sellers, couldn't manage.

Dell's estimated fourth quarter sales, for example, dropped 16.4% compared to the same period the year before, while HP's fell 3.4%.

Acer was easily the big winner last quarter, said Gartner, as it pushed Apple out of the No. 3 spot to capture 15.2% of the U.S. market and year-to-year gains of 55%. Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa attributed Acer's success to sales of inexpensive mini-notebooks. Those laptops, often dubbed "netbooks," and characterized by their small size, light weight and low price, did well in the face of the economic downturn.

And that bodes ill for Apple, which doesn't have a system in a category that grew by 20% from the third to the fourth quarter. "Because Apple doesn't have a presence there, it might have been affected," Kitagawa said.

Another possible explanation for Apple's slowdown, said Kitagawa, is its pricing. "I just don't know if their price was being accepted by consumers," she said.

Apple's least expensive laptop is a $999 MacBook, the single leftover model from the discontinued line featuring plastic cases. Netbooks, meanwhile, typically sell for under $500, and often for considerably less. Amazon.com, for instance, sells Acer's popular Aspire One 8.9-in. netbook for under $350.

Gartner rival IDC, meanwhile, also slotted Apple into the No. 4 spot, with an estimated 1.24 million systems sold, or 7.2% of all sales. IDC's estimates had Apple posting a year-to-year growth rate of just 7.5% for the fourth quarter, better than the negative numbers of Dell and HP. Like Gartner, IDC said that Apple's gains looked lackluster compared to Acer's 35.8% increase.

Analysts from both Gartner and IDC bemoaned the state of U.S. computer sales, with Kitagawa pointing out that the quarter's sales slide was the biggest since the last U.S. recession in 2001.

"The fourth quarter started out with a relatively optimistic view, but then it got worse every month," she said, noting that only consumer sales looked strong, and then only because of low prices for netbooks and steep price cuts for other systems.

"The value of the market shrank as a result of competitive pricing and the introduction of lower-priced mini-notebooks," said Doug Bell, an analyst with IDC, in a statement.

Nor should computer makers expect any good news soon. "The first half of 2009 looks pretty shaky, as the economic fundamentals need to recover before spending on PCs will resume," said Bell.

Apple is scheduled to deliver its earnings report on Jan. 21 after the stock market closes, and will reveal 2008 fourth quarter sales figures then. In the third calendar quarter, Apple said it sold 1.12 million computers in the Americas, and another 596,000 in its retail stores, the bulk of which are in the U.S.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Apple

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?