Apple’s Mac Problem

News came today that Apple’s Mac sales are down 21% year-over-year and 16% for the quarter. While 4.1 million Macs sold in Q1 2013 is nothing to sneeze at, it’s still nearly a quarter year-over-year loss, which makes investors nervous.

The primary problem in the Mac line right now is the dichotomy between Retina devices – primarily the MacBook Pro – and the rest of the line. Die-hards won’t buy desktop Macs because the new Mac Pros haven’t been announced and fans of Retina screens look to iMacs in askance. Mobile users have a few choices thanks to the 13-inch Pro with Retina display but the Airs still have lower resolution screens. The machines are damn good, but are they damn good enough?

In short, the current Mac line-up is bifurcated. On one hand you can lay out a few thousand for a laptop with a beautiful screen and on the other hand you lay out a few thousand for monitor with lower resolution. There is no clear escape here, and so customers aren’t buying.

I also don’t believe Windows 8 has much to do with this drop. Win8, while fascinating, hasn’t caught on with IT or consumers and the first time many of us will see Win8 is when we buy a new computer this year as prices stabilize.

One real potential culprit, however, is Apple’s tablet line-up. When a casual user sees a tablet to be as good as a laptop, there’s a problem. Perhaps we are in a post desktop world, but that’s not enough to account for a drop in sales. Buy building solid mobile devices, Apple could be cannibalizing their own Mac sales.

Fluctuations in the market can be attributed to almost anything. However, it’s clear that Apple’s Mac line is at a tipping point. Because many of the devices aren’t quite “state-of-the-art,” at least by Apple standards, sales are suffering. What needs to change, in short, is Apple’s current Mac line.