Apple Not Immune from Bad Economy as Mac Sales Drop

It's no surprise that the recession is hurting sales of tech gear, as retailers report lackluster sales this holiday season. But now it appears that even Apple, which in the recent past has managed to grow sales while its lesser competitors have faltered, is feeling the pain too.

A report in the Wall Street Journal, citing data from research firm NPD Group, states that Mac sales in the U.S. in November fell 1 percent from the same period a year earlier. By comparison, all PC sales were up by 2 percent. NPD analyst Steve Baker lays the blame mostly on the precipitous decline in the sale of Mac desktops, which fell by 35 percent, the Journal reports. Despite the slowdown, sales of Apple laptops are still growing faster than those of competing PC makers, according to NPD.

So if you remove desktop sales from the equation, Apple's November numbers would likely look pretty good. And given the desktop's soon-to-be-extinct status in the consumer PC market, a drop in Mac desktop sales probably isn't Cupertino's biggest concern right now. Then again, it's quite possible that Black Friday fire sales, including deeply discounted full-size notebooks and sub-$500 netbooks, steered customers away from Apple's pricier offerings. And given that the netbook market is expected to explode this year, Apple is wise to play there.

Indeed, a sluggish economy may force Apple to forego its robust product margins and compete more aggressively at the down-and-dirty $500 price point. And if recent rumblings are true, that's exactly what it plans to do. Rumors also have Apple introducing not one, but two, netbook computers at MacWorld in January, as well as an updated Mac mini desktop. Of course, Apple's supposedly launching an iPhone Nano at the show too, so believe what you want.

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