Why did Mac sales decline 10% in 2016?

Apple’s Mac computers hit a significant decline in 2016, and that allowed the company’s competitors to profit at Apple's expense. What went wrong for Apple and the Mac in 2016?

Mac users have not been very happy with Apple lately, and it showed in the company’s 2016 sales numbers for the Mac. Mac sales declined by about 10 percent while Apple’s Windows-based competitors gained some ground at Apple's expense.

Michael Potuck reports for 9to5Mac:

It’s not surprising that Mac sales dropped for Apple in 2016 as they experienced their first year over year sales decline since 2001. What is interesting, however, is that as Mac sales dropped roughly 10 percent and personal computers overall dropped 5.7 percent for the year, the top four leaders in the market all saw growth as Apple was pushed to number five.

Although Mac sales were up in Q4 2016 compared to Q4 2015, an analyst note today from Bloomberg’s Anand Srinivasan and Wei Mok has revealed Apple has dropped to the fifth largest PC vendor, with ASUS (ASUSTeK) overtaking fourth place. The top four vendors are now Lenovo, HP, Dell, and ASUS.

More at 9to5Mac

I’ll share my thoughts below, but first check out some of the comments from 9to5Mac readers. They didn’t pull any punches in their comments about the decline of Mac sales:

BelgianWaffle: “The way to fix this is to raise prices and push out less updates to the line.”

Fly Moon: “And keep your core Mac users confused about Mac future.”

DevXav: “And Steve Jobs is not there to put then in the right direction…The board, stakeholders, directors are all money (profit) oriented ONLY.”

Douglas Aalseth: “Honestly Apple is the biggest bloody company on the planet. Why can't they update more than one thing at once? Seriously this "2015 was new MacBooks, 2016 is new MAcBook Pros, and 2017 is desktop Macs" shtick is wearing a little thin. Apple really should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. They have the resources. They have the staff. If they need more talent, they have the money to hire anyone they need.”

Max: “…when a customer goes out to buy a new device he doesn't like to buy an overpriced two years old technology product (Mac pro, Mac mini, MacBook Air and so on…”

Freediverx: “True, but what percentage of Apple's sales do those models account for? The Mac Pro is an insanely expensive computer that is only suitable for a narrow niche market. The Mac Mini is there only to act as a quasi loss leader to establish a lower point of entry for prospective Mac customers. The MacBook Air is a legacy model that will likely be discontinued soon.”

MacJedi56: “I could not give a rats rectum about any of the 'features' on the 2016 MBPs. I don't need thin, I don't need light as a feather, I don't need a stinking touch-bar thingy. I need a fire breathing OMG computer that has the OTHER STUFF. To hell with dongles. And in 2016, getting 32 or even 64 Gig of RAM should not be a 'moon shot' kind of feature. The current MAXIMUM (???) of 16G is embarrassing. Why should I pay a premium price for a so what laptop?? AND how about giving us some FREAKING CHOICES? Stop soldering everything to the logic board and telling us to kiss off?”

Prof. Peabody: “Indeed. Apple hasn't actually been in the Pro Desktop marketplace for three years now. Yet they will almost certainly turn around and say the reason they don't upgrade the product is low sales. It's a pushme-pullyou situation. You can't ignore your products and customers for years and then say that your products don't sell. They don't sell because there isn't anything to buy.”

Joe Ray: “Totally agree with this. My 2009 Mac Pro recently died. I ended up buying a refurbished 2012 Mac Pro instead of the "new" 2013 model. The 2012 was not only less expensive, but much more upgradable and so much more of a pro level machine. And I didn't want to spend big bucks for 2013 technology. That "niche" market of people like me kept them alive in the 90s. Now they ignore us, or at least don't seem to consider what we actually need and want in a computer, causing folks like me to reluctantly start looking at what's available on the Windows side of things.”

More at 9to5Mac

As you can tell from the comments, some Mac users are very unhappy with Apple. Their displeasure, unfortunately, is something that I’ve seen more and more of on various Apple sites around the web.

No communication, overpriced computers and a lack of Mac updates

I think the anger being expressed by some Mac users is based on frustration and that, in turn, has resulted in lower sales of the Mac. People have not been as willing to pull the trigger on a new Mac because Apple hasn't given them enough compelling reasons to buy one.

So what's causing the frustation?

In some cases Apple has not updated parts of its Mac computer line for years (Mac mini, Mac Pro), and the company has also raised prices on some models (MacBook Pro) while eliminating certain useful ports.

Apple has also failed to communicate its intentions well to Mac users, leaving people completely in the dark as to if and when certain Macs will be updated. That is not a recipe for success, and the end result is unhappiness and perhaps eventually a migration from the Mac to Windows computers.

Would it kill Apple to release a road map for its Mac computers? People cannot plan buying decisions when they have no idea whatsoever if or when Apple will update the Mac. Yet the company has no problem releasing annual updates to the iPhone, and it is easy for people to plan their iPhone purchase each year.

Does still Apple value its Mac users?

It’s no secret that the iPhone (and thus iOS) is the company’s big money maker now, with the Mac (and macOS) contributing much less to the bottom line. That has resulted in Apple understandably making the iPhone its top priority when it comes to expending the company’s resources.

But it has also sent the signal - intentionally or unintentionally - that Apple’s Mac customers are not as important or as valued as its iPhone customers. So it’s quite understandable that Mac users are unhappy with Apple and are venting their ire on sites that cover the company.

Let’s face it, who among us wants to feel like second class customers? Yet that is where Apple has placed its Mac users, they are second in line to iPhone users and everybody knows it.

The iPad Pro is not a substitute for the Mac

Another problem with Apple is that its CEO seems to think that the iPad Pro can be a substitute for the Mac for many users. I don't know where Tim Cook got this idea, but he seems utterly clueless that some of us need macOS on a desktop or laptop computer.

Believe me, I've experimented with using iOS for work on my iPad Pro and it stinks. It takes me far longer to get anything done using iOS on the iPad Pro than it does when using macOS on a Mac. iOS might be fine for Tim Cook's needs, but it's not fine for a lot of other people.

Don't get me wrong, I love my iPad Pro. It's a great device for ebooks, audiobooks, apps and browsing the web. But it is not a substitute for the Mac when it comes work and general productivity, and I doubt it ever will be.

Get it together in 2017, Apple

I think that 2017 is a make or break year for the Mac and Apple. Either the company gets its act together, or it watches Mac users begin to migrate over to Windows computers, Chromebooks, Linux and other non-Apple platforms.

That might sound a little harsh to some, but the value proposition of owning a Mac computer has begun to seriously lessen in recent years. The people running Apple, of course, have no one to blame but themselves for this.

Pipeline Time needs to start delivering for Mac users or watch many of them wave goodbye as they dump their old Macs and start bailing out of Apple’s ecosystem.

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