New MacBook Pros stop Apple's skid in worldwide PC shipments

Shipments of the MacBook Pro are stabilizing Apple's worldwide PC shipments but not giving it a major boost

Apple's new MacBook Pros have put the brakes on a free-fall of Mac shipments globally, though they haven't provided the significant boost the company was looking for.

The company's Mac shipments totaled 5.3 million units during the fourth quarter of 2016, a decline of just 0.9 percent compared to the same quarter in 2015.

That compares favorably to overall Mac shipments in 2016, which totaled 18.4 million units, a decline of 9.8 percent compared to 2015, according to IDC. 

Apple launched the new MacBook Pros in late October, and it was considered a significant upgrade. Had the new MacBook Pros shipped for all three months, the quarterly growth may have jumped up to flat or positive territory.

But that's still not an encouraging sign for MacBook Pros, which haven't provided an overwhelming boost to worldwide Mac shipments.

Apple will share its Mac shipment numbers during an earnings call on Jan. 31. Apple's shipment numbers haven't always agreed with figures from research firms like IDC and Gartner.

The MacBook Pros were met with mixed reviews. They had new features like the Touch Bar, which received a lukewarm reaction. The Macs were also criticized for including Intel's older Skylake chips and not the newer Kaby Lake chips.

Windows PCs and Chromebooks are performing better. Apple was the fourth-largest PC maker in the world behind Lenovo, HP, and Dell, all of which recorded positive shipment growth during the fourth quarter of 2016.

Nevertheless, Apple's Mac shipments are recovering, and it comes at a time when PC shipments are also stabilizing. PC shipments in the fourth quarter totaled 70.2 million, declining by just 1.5 percent compared to the same quarter in 2015, according to IDC. The numbers include traditional PCs and not devices with detachable keyboards, which are considered tablets.

Competing analyst firm Gartner has predicted PC shipments will go through minor quarterly declines until returning to positive growth in 2017.

One reason for the recovery was a clear delineation of product categories. Tablets aren't considered competition anymore, and many customers are returning to laptops and desktops for their primary computing needs. Gaming PCs have thrived in the last year as interest in virtual reality and eSports grows.

Holiday deals boosted PC sales in the U.S. and Europe, and the consumer PC market is recovering, IDC said. Shipments also were robust in China as buyers moved to thin and light devices.

Lenovo's PC shipments totaled 15.7 million, growing by 1.7 percent, maintaining a 22.4 percent market share. HP's shipments totaled 15.27 million, growing by 6.6 percent, a 21.7 percent market share. Dell recorded the biggest quarterly gain with its shipments growing by 8.6 percent to 11 million units. Asus was the fifth largest PC maker behind Apple, and its shipments declined by 11.3 percent to 5.1 million units.

In 2016, shipments of PCs totaled 260 million units, declining by 5.7 percent compared to 2015.

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