About that post-PC era...Steve Jobs was right

A slide from the iPad introduction in January 2010 shows Steve Jobs in the early days of personal computing. Credit: IDG News Service

Apple's earnings came out today, and amidst the flood of instant analysis and impassioned claims from Apple fans and foes alike, one thing clearly stood out.

Steve Jobs was right. The post-PC era is here.

Gartner and other analyst firms already measured a year-to-year drop in overall PC sales last quarter, but in the past Apple has managed to overcome that trend with Mac sales. Not so in the fourth quarter of 2012 (which is Q1 of Apple's 2013 fiscal year). 

Mac sales dropped significantly, from 5.2 million a year ago to only 4.1 million this quarter.That's a drop of more than 20 percent.

There are two extenuating factors at play:

  • Last year, Apple's quarter lasted 14 weeks, whereas this year it was only 13 weeks long. Average weekly sales of Macs were down only about 15%
  • Apple announced new iMacs in late October, but didn't begin selling them until the very end of November. That surely depressed Mac sales throughout November.

Even so, Mac sales don't look great.

There's no such excuse-making needed for the iPad. Unit sales were up nearly 50% from last year, coming in at 22.9 million. That's despite a flurry of competition from major competitors like Google, which released the Nexus 7, and Amazon, which has stealthily moved upstream from e-readers to the Kindle Fire HD, a full-fledged tablet line-up. Apple responded to these competitors by releasing a new smaller iPad, the mini, and apparently it worked. 

Apple also mentioned Barclays Bank buying more than 8,000 iPads for use in branches. That's a rare acknowledgment of the iPad's impact in the enterprise. At CITEworld, we're hearing and seeing more of these stories every day.

The iPhone also continued its insane growth, with nearly 30% growth in unit sales to almost 48 million. The device that kicked off the smartphone revolution nearly five years ago is still as vital to consumers -- and enterprises -- as it's ever been.

By the way, Apple is doing just fine in China -- the company broke out Chinese sales for the first time, and they were up 67% to $6.8 billion. So much for fears about being undercut by cheap devices running Android or other platforms.

Investors apparently saw a lot to hate -- the average selling price for the iPad was down (thanks to the cheaper iPad mini), margins were down, net profit was flat from last year's quarter, and neither iPhone nor iPad sales met analysts' expectations. The stock dropped 10% after hours, extending a 30% slide from the middle of last year.

But none of this matters to consumers or IT departments. 

Apple was right when it predicted a big shift in the personal computing market. It was the first to capitalize on that shift, and consumers are still lapping up post-PC products from the company. That means that shift is going to be rippling through IT departments for many years, and Apple will continue to gain -- not lose -- relevance. 

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