Analyst: Leopard sets first-month sales mark for Mac OS

In a year that’s already seen Apple set records for quarterly Mac sales and sell 1 million iPhones within 74 days of the device’s launch, the company appears to have another best-seller on its hands. Initial sales figures of the Leopard update to Mac OS X make OS X 10.5 the best launch of a Mac OS ever, according to figures compiled by a market-research firm.

NPD Group reported Monday that dollar volume for Leopard is up 32.8 percent over the launch of OS X 10.4 while unit volume is 20.5-percent higher than the OS version code-named Tiger. NPD compared the first full month of sales for the two operating systems—November 2007 for Leopard and May 2005 for Tiger—to reach those figures.

“It’s really stunning to see Apple have one blow-out OS launch after another,” Chris Swenson, NPD’s director of software industry analysis wrote in a research note. “Although the dollar volume growth and unit volume growth can be partially attributed to the launch of Leopard during November, a key month for consumer shopping, and the rapid growth in the number of retail stores Apple currently has … with every new OS outperforming previous versions, it’s clear that Apple has hit upon the right strategy for rolling out new versions of its OS.”

NPD’s first-month sales data only accounts for stand-alone copies of Mac OS X sold; it doesn’t include OS updates bundled with new Mac hardware sales. NPD pulled its data from 50 retailers, including brick-and-mortar stores such as Best Buy, Office Depot, and Target, as well as e-commerce sites like Amazon.com, Buy.com, and NewEgg.com. The market-research firm also used monthly data from Apple to produce its report.

Swenson compares the first month of Leopard sales to how Tiger did in its first month on the market. OS X 10.4 sold around 30-percent more units than OS X 10.3 and around 100 percent more units than OS X 10.2.

Sales of family packs of OS X 10.5, which offer a five-license pack for $199, were a big sales driver, according to NPD. Swenson says the family-pack version accounted for 32.8 percent of Leopard unit sales in the first full month of release. In contrast, family-pack sales accounted for 20.4 percent of Tiger unit sales.

Leopard’s first-month sales cap a big year for Apple. The company reported a record number of Mac sales during its fiscal third quarter ended June 30—a record Apple proceeded to top the very next quarter. In September, Apple reported that it had sold its 1 millionth iPhone after launching the device less than three months earlier. Apple also sold its 100 millionth iPod in April.

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