It’s become accepted shorthand to refer to Apple’s annual October product unveiling as the “iPad Event.”
But it may be time to rethink that nickname. Rumors are that Apple may make some announcements about its iMac this time around. And because of the trends behind the Macs (good) and the iPads (not so good), the details of the new tablets may be less important than any announcements about updates to Apple’s desktops and laptops.
And, in an era where nearly every detail leaks before the show, this may be the biggest surprise on Oct. 16.
To understand the role reversal between two of Apple’s core products, it helps to look at the trends. Let’s start at the last Apple earnings announcement for the period ending June 2014.
The company reported that it has $5.89 billion in revenue for iPad sales for the preceding three months, down from $6.37 billion for the same period a year ago. By comparison, Mac sales were $5.54 billion, up from $4.89 billion a year ago. Macs were closing the gap with iPads.
Apple fans will point out that iPad sales taper off as customers wait for new versions. But it’s not like Macs had a big, splashy update to boost sales.
So what’s going on? Recent reports about the PC market indicate that Apple is experiencing the effects of a larger trend. That is, while tablet sales in general are hitting a plateau, people seem to be rediscovering their love (or at least their need) for the much-maligned PC.
This week, Gartner reported that the PC market is no longer bleeding to death. Worldwide PC shipments fell to 79.4 million the quarter ending in September, according to Gartner. That’s only down .5% from the same period a year ago. The big winners: Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer, and Asus.
IDC reported slightly different numbers but a similar trend. PC sales were no longer falling off a cliff. However, there was one interesting difference. Instead of Asus, IDC said Apple had grabbed the fifth spot.
“The company’s steady growth, along with recent price cuts and improved demand in mature markets, has helped it to consistently outgrow the market,” IDC wrote.
And that brings us back to Oct. 16. No doubt, most of the focus will be on what Apple says about the iPads. They will no doubt be thinner, lighter, and faster, likely with TouchID. However, word that a bigger iPad might appear took a hit Thursday when the Wall Street Journal reported that demand for the new iPhones had left suppliers unable to build bigger iPads until next year.
Still, what happens with Macs, and the release of the new Yosemite OS this month may have a bigger impact on Apple’s bottom line over the next year than the iPad. And that twist is one even the biggest Apple fan boys may not have seen coming.