Apple's Mac continues to buck PC industry's contraction trend

While the personal computer business overall contracted another 8% to 11% in 2015, Apple continued to grow shipments of its Mac line, one of only two manufacturers in the top five to do so throughout the year, according to estimates from researchers IDC and Gartner.

Global PC shipments during 2015 declined by 11%, said IDC, or 8% by Gartner's measurements. The difference in the two estimates stemmed from the ways each firm tallied shipments: IDC did not include so-called "2-in-1" devices, tablets that offer detachable keyboards, such as Apple's iPad Pro, Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 and the Windows-powered alternatives crafted by OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners; Gartner included those form factors in its count.

However, Apple again went against the grain -- a practice it's been good at during the four-years-and-counting contraction of the industry -- by shipping an estimated 5.7 million Macs in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 21 million during the 12 months of last year.

Mac shipments in 2015 increased by about 6% compared to the year before, IDC and Gartner both concluded. The only other OEM to boost sales last year was Asus, which according to IDC grew its shipments by 1%. (Gartner forecast Asus shipments as -3%.)

Apple will disclose its fourth-quarter Mac sales figures on Jan. 26 when it holds its next earnings call with Wall Street. If IDC's and Gartner's projections for the Cupertino, Calif. company's Mac shipments are accurate, Apple will have set a fourth-quarter record for computer sales. The researcher pair pegged Mac growth at about 3% for the quarter.

Apple will need to beat the IDC and Gartner estimates to establish a new single-quarter record for Mac sales, however, as both firms' forecasts for the fourth quarter are below the current record of 5.7 million Macs sold in the September 2015 quarter.

Mac shipments bucked the industry's trend even though their prices remain significantly higher than the average. "Apple's emergence as a top five global PC vendor in 2015 shows that there can be strong demand for innovative, even premium-priced systems, that put user experience first," said IDC analyst Jay Chou in a statement.

Data: Apple, IDC

Mac sales continue to buck the industry trend of contraction, with IDC pegging Apple's number for the fourth quarter of 2015 at 5.7 million, good enough for a tie for fourth place worldwide among personal computer makers.

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