The best Mac quarter, ever

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It seems like I do a whole lot of writing and talking these days — in print, online, and in press interviews — about all the things Apple does that aren’t the Mac. With the iPod an entrenched part of modern tech culture and the iPhone this year’s biggest tech product launch, it’s easy for the Mac to get lost in the shuffle. It’s old news from a company with a whole lot of new news.

Except for one thing: the Mac business has never, ever been better than it is right now. And even people outside our little world — financial analysts and technology pundits alike — seem to be realizing it.

What did it take for this to happen? Try this one on for size: in the past three months (April, May, and June 2007) Apple sold more Macs than it has ever sold in a single financial quarter. Ever.

The particulars: last quarter Apple sold 1,764,000 new Macs, up 154,000 from the previous high. That’s four straight quarters in which Apple has sold more than $2 billion worth of Macs. To put that in perspective, in early 2005 Apple was selling about a million new Macs per quarter, for a total of about $1.6 billion.

Leading the Mac’s surge in popularity: laptops. Yes, sales of desktop Macs perked up in the last quarter, bolstered by the arrival of Final Cut Studio and Adobe Creative Suite 3. But all in all, desktop sales have been flat for the last three years.

Not so with laptops. In early 2005 Apple was selling less than a half a million Mac laptops per quarter. But in this last three-month period, the company sold 1.1 million MacBooks, the most laptops Apple has ever sold in a single quarter. In the past year 61 percent of all Macs sold have been laptops (back in early 2005, the numbers were reversed — 60 percent of Macs sold in the first quarter of 2005 were desktops).

“It was an overall blowout quarter for the Mac,” Apple COO Tim Cook said on Apple’s quarterly conference call Wednesday. “It’s the absolute best quarter we’ve ever had. We sold more portables than we ever had, we sold more total units than we ever had. It was the best education quarter we ever had. And the pro business had a nice uptick.”

All in all, 47 percent of Apple’s revenues last quarter came from Mac sales. And within Apple’s retail stores, the news was even better. Apple sold 330,000 Macs in its retail stores, up 53 percent over the same quarter a year ago. And Apple continues to report that more than 50 percent of all Mac buyers in Apple retail stores said they were new to the Mac.

And of course, as Apple executives crowed during the conference call Wednesday, Apple is exceeding the growth rates that most industry analysts have predicted for the computer industry.

All told, it seems to be a pretty good time to be a Mac user. And it appears that there are a whole lot more of us today than there were just a few years ago.

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