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Mac Sales Continue To Soar For Apple, But Who's Buying?


You may have heard the era of the personal computer is over. Mobile devices are the thing now - smart phones, tablets, now wearable devices even. Yeah, that computer is going the way of the powdered wig. But apparently, consumers missed the memo.

Apple recently announced it had sold more Macintosh computers than ever before this past quarter - five-and-a-half million. Omar Gallaga is the tech culture for the Austin American-Statesman. He says Apple's uptick comes as the dramatic decline in PC sales has dramatically slowed.

OMAR GALLAGA: I mean, no one is saying that there's a gigantic rebound in the PC industry. It's definitely is a slowdown, but it's still a decline or, at least, flat. But there's definitely some movement away from tablets and maybe back to PCs. This quarter, Apple had a 13 percent decline in its iPad sales, down to 12.3 million units, which Tim Cook calls a speed bump, but we shall see.

RATH: Do you think that the changes in sales are reflecting a change in how people are using devices? Or is it just that people have enough tablets, and they're happy with their PCs?

GALLAGA: I think so. It's a lot of screens in the house. You know, if you have a large phone - you know, if you bought the iPhone 6 Plus or you have a Samsung, you know, Galaxy Note, you've got a pretty big screen that's comparable to, say, an iPad mini. And if you have an iPad - if you have an iPad 2 or 3, maybe you don't feel the need to upgrade, which I think is what's really happening - is people are holding on to those tablets that they bought a couple of years ago longer than they would a cell phone or maybe a, you know, computer.

So Apple is having a hard time convincing people, you know - hey, you know, why not upgrade? Why not spend $500 to $900 on a new iPad. People are finding that maybe they don't need that.

RATH: So do you think the computer manufacturers, or maybe just Apple, can relax a little bit? Or do you think, you know, this is just a temporary break in the stormy weather when it comes to computer sales?

GALLAGA: No, I think for Apple, they need to be as aggressive as possible right now and do what they can. I mean, they still - 5.5 million Macs in one quarter sounds like a lot, but that's only one part of a 75 million PC, you know, shipping quarter.

So Apple is still - you know, it's in the top five now, according to some of the analysts. But that's still, you know, probably not enough for Apple. They want to continue to push and push and take advantage of any weakness in the traditional PC market.

And they're also fighting on the low end, as well, against Chromebooks. Chromebooks have become very popular, you know, on the sub-$300 market. So Apple is kind of fighting this battle on all fronts - on the low end, on the high end with iMac, even, you know, with the Mac Pro. So they are really gunning on all fronts.

RATH: And on the consumer side of that, why are people still choosing Macs when, as more than one advertisement is telling me, you can get products that do the same thing for much less?

GALLAGA: I think there's a couple of things. One is that Windows 8 from Microsoft was not a raging success. It had a bad reputation. It was something that people found they had problems with. It was a big adjustment from Windows 7. Microsoft had to kind of retreat in some areas and reintroduce things that it had eliminated in Windows 8. And the next, Windows 10, which - to me, the fact that they're skipping Windows 9 and going to Windows 10 shows how much they want to distance themselves...


GALLAGA: ...From the debacle that has been Windows 8. I think that has helped Apple, for sure. And also, you know, Macs - the MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros are considered cool. I mean, if you look in pop culture, if you look in TV and movies and you see a silver laptop, you think, that's a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air. You don't think, that's a Lenovo or a Dell. They've become associated with, you know, what professionals, what people in coffee shops are using and are kind of the cool kids on the block.

RATH: Omar Gallaga is a tech culture writer for the Austin American-Statesman. Omar, thanks very much.

GALLAGA: Yeah, great time. Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.