U.S. Mac Demand Soft in January as Customers Wait for Updated Models
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is out with a new report today citing data from research firm NPD on U.S. sales of Macs. According to the data, Apple's U.S. Mac sales were up only 1% year-over-year in January, tracking behind predictions that have called for roughly 20% year-over-year growth for the full quarter. Munster believes, however, that continued strength in international markets and the potential for new Mac updates such as a refreshed MacBook Air near end of the quarter will likely help Apple close strongly to meet expectations.
We have analyzed domestic NPD retail data for the first month of the March quarter, which is up 1% y/y. The early data appears soft on a y/y basis; however, last quarter actual Mac growth outpaced NPD by 14 percentage points. Also, we believe Apple may launch new MacBook Airs as early as March. Net-net, we believe this early data suggests Mac sales in the range of 4.4m-4.6m, or 17%-22% y/y growth (we believe Street consensus is 4.5m Macs in the quarter and we are also at 4.5m).
With historical evidence showing overall growth outpacing NPD's U.S. data by 14 percentage points, Munster believes that Apple's actual worldwide Mac growth for January could be in the 15% range, close enough to the 20% target for the full quarter to give a Apple a reasonable chance at making up the difference with a strong finish.
Piper Jaffray's independent data on iPhone sales for January are tracking toward full-quarter sales of 32-34 million, a figure that would help overcome any softness on the Mac side. iPod sales trends remain in line with predictions of continued declines as customers shift from the aging iPod line to iPhones and iPads.