Mac shipments fall in 2019 despite impressive growth for PCs

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macBookpro
The 16-inch MacBook Pro couldn't save falling Mac shipments.
Photo: Apple

A big MacBook Pro refresh and a long-awaited Mac Pro overhaul couldn’t prevent Apple computer shipments from suffering another decline in 2019, according to new data.

Both IDC and Gartner say Mac shipments fell during the final quarter of 2019, and for 2019 as a whole. That’s despite decent growth for PCs, which enjoyed the highest single-quarter shipment volume in four years during Q4.

2019 was an eventful year for fans of the Mac. We saw updates to iMac and the brilliant Retina MacBook Air, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro with a much-improved Magic Keyboard, and the customizable Mac Pro we had waited years for.

Some might argue we could have had a little more, like updates to the iMac Pro and Mac mini. But Apple certainly can’t be accused of ignoring the Mac business like it has in the past.

Despite all that hardware and a big macOS Catalina update, however, Mac shipments fell for the third consecutive year while PC sales were on the up.

Mac down again in 2019

Gartner’s figures show Apple shipped about 5.26 million Macs during the fourth quarter of 2019 — down 3% year-over-year. Around 18.35 million units were shipped for the whole of 2019 — down 0.6% in comparison with 2018.

IDC reports much of the same. Its data shows Apple shipped 4.7 million computers in Q4 2019 — down 5.3% from Q4 2018. It suggests shipments of 17.68 million units for the year — down 2.2%.

What makes these declines more painful for Apple is that other computer vendors saw decent growth.

Lenovo tops the rankings for the fourth quarter, with 17.8 million units shipped for a 6.5% year-over-year increase, according to IDC. HP takes second place with 17.17 million units shipped for an even larger 6.9% rise.

Dell sits in third with 12.46 million units shipped for an impressive 10.7% increase year-over-year. Apple holds onto fourth place.

A ‘wild’ year for PCs

These increases for other vendors are so good that IDC describes the past year as “a wild one in the PC world.” It was a year that saw “impressive market growth that ultimately ended seven consecutive years of market contraction.”

“The market will still have its challenges ahead, but this year was a clear sign that PC demand is still there despite the continued insurgence of emerging form factors and the demand for mobile computing,” said IDC VP Ryan Reith.

If PC demand is still there, then, why is it that the Mac is struggling?

Many will blame Apple’s refusal to adopt things like touchscreens and 2-in-1 form factors, which have become popular among portable Windows machines. Others will take aim at Apple’s higher price tags and lack of affordable options.

It’s highly unlikely that will change in 2020. But there are other things Mac fans can look forward to.

2020 a big year for Mac

This year is expected to bring a big iMac refresh that will almost certainly take cues from Apple’s new Pro Display XDR. We can also expect a more portable MacBook Pro with the same improvements introduced by the 16-inch model.

Even more exciting than those, for some, at least, is the possibility of a brand-new Mac aimed at gamers. Recent, albeit questionable rumors have claimed Apple is developing such a device and will unveil it at WWDC.

What would you like to see from the Mac in 2020?