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Apple portables steadily outsell desktops

Apple continues to consistently sell more laptops than desktops, even as a major iMac upgrade enabled desktop sales to achieve a temporary parity with mobile models in 2007.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs proclaimed 2003 the "year of the laptop" and it wasn't long before sales of Mac portables hit a record high and numerically eclipsed sales of Mac desktops.

This trend has continued since then, with MacBook and MacBook Pro sales generally outpacing sales of Apple's desktop Mac Pro and iMac lines. "The last three 10Ks showed that Apple is selling more laptops than desktops," said Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies.

"Interest in Apple's computers on a whole [is] up dramatically thanks to the iPod and iPhone 'halo' effect as well as their very strong retail presence," Bajarin said. "More and more consumers are discovering the Mac's ease of use and powerful new OS and this has especially driven up the sales of their laptops.

"Early in 2006, Apple laptops represented about 60 percent of [the company's] total computer sales. But interest in their iMacs has been so strong this year that its sales of laptops verses desktops are now at 50 percent each," Bajarin said.

However, in the most recent quarter, laptops were an even higher proportion of Apple's unit sales.

PointerClick here to read about Apple's stealthy laptop upgrades.

During the company's earnings call for the fourth quarter of 2007, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said, "On a worldwide basis, Apple's growth rate was over two times IDC's most recently published market growth rates for the September quarter."

Customers responded "very favorably to the new iMacs we announced in August, driving 31 percent year-over-year growth in desktop systems," Oppenheimer said. "Demand for Apple's MacBooks and MacBook Pros continued to be very strong. Sales of portables increased 37 percent over the prior September quarter and accounted for 62 percent of Macs sold."

Despite the upswing in iMac sales, the increase in laptop sales was even greater. This could be due, in part, to a relative lack of updates to the professional (and higher-margin) Mac Pro desktop line.

Whatever the reason, it seems that Mac laptops are more the object of buyer lust than desktops. In October 2006, Solutions Research Group published a consumer study (PDF) showing that the most in-demand Apple product was a laptop (MacBook or MacBook Pro). The study also found that an Apple laptop was the 11th-most wanted product for the holiday season overall.

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