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Mac shipments slump as Apple finally bitten by glum PC demand

On the bright side, higher inventories will give 'puter makers opportunity to flee China, IDC says

Apple's client device sales volumes stood out compared to its competitors during 2023's first quarter, but not for the reasons you might expect, IDC reports.

Apple saw Q1 shipments of new Macs plummet 40.5 percent from 6.9 million units in 2022 to 4.1 million this year. PC vendors also experienced a generally dismal quarter, with shipments down roughly 25-30 percent.

The precipitous decline in Mac movements marked a notable departure from previous quarters, which saw Apple outperform rivals. During the October-December holiday quarter, Apple shipments contracted a mere 2.1 percent, while most other PC manufacturers saw their output slide by up to 37 percent.

On average, PC sales fell 30 percent year-over-year during the first quarter. And while Q1 sales are traditionally soft following a flurry of spending during the holiday quarter, 2023's Q1 shipments fell below those in 2018 and 2019. This, trend further reinforces IDC’s conclusion that the PC market has officially returned to pre-COVID levels.

The factors contributing to weak PC shipments during the first three months of 2023 remained largely unchanged from prior quarters: worsening macroeconomic conditions, combined with feeble demand and higher than average inventories. A similar story has played out over the past three or four quarters as OEMS and chipmakers alike have reported a steady decline in client computing and PC sales across the board.

In the case of Intel and AMD these declines have come despite platform refreshes to both their notebook and desktop processor families.

The PC market isn’t expected to improve for at least the next few quarters, according to IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani. "Even with heavy discounting, channels and PC makers can expect elevated inventory to persist into the middle of the year and potentially into the third quarter.”

However, that may not be a bad thing as US-China trade relations cause OEMs to reassess their manufacturing plans and investigate alternative locals for production. We’ve already seen several vendors poking around Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore as they look to limit their exposure to weak links in supply chains caused by geopolitical tensions and other factors. Elevated inventories and slow demand may be advantageous for PC vendors exploring potentially disruptive revisions to their procurement plans, the analyst house notes.

IDC also expects OEMs to reduce orders for Chromebooks as Google is expected to hike licensing fees later this year.

Looking to the future, IDC doesn’t see the PC market improving until at least 2024, and then only if macroeconomic conditions improve. According to IDC analyst Linn Huang, if the economy is on the mend by that time, PC shipments should start trending upward as customers look to replace aging machines. If the global economy heads south, a PC sales recovery will likely be far slower. ®

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