The Mac: Apple's (AAPL) Achilles' Heel

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Most analysts thought that the good news out of Apple (AAPL) was that Mac sales were up 51% to 2,289,000. Nothing could be further from the truth.

iPod sales sales have slowed considerably. They were up only 8% in the quarter. to 10,644,000. With almost 150 million sold since the product was introduced, it is surprising that the music player has held up that well. The product saved the company from obscurity but its best days are over. Apple also sold 1.7 million iPhones. That keeps it on track with expectations, but it is not likely to overtake Nokia anytime soon.

The Mac has been a hot product before. In the early days of the PC, the Mac was consider the cool product. When the iMac came out in 1998, it was a hot seller. But, the rate-limiting step was that Apple could never get deeply into the corporate market. Colleges and design firms would use it. But, the IT departments at mid and large-sized companies would not support two platforms. The PC and Windows had done too good a job.

Apple is at a "run rate" to sell almost 10 million Macs this calendar year. That has to get the attention of PC shops like Dell (DELL) and HP (HPQ). It is also more than interesting to Microsoft (MSFT).

The big wall that Apple cannot knock over is the wall that being in second place erects. The really substantial buyers, corporations, who could move Mac sales toward 15 million or 20 million units, never did buy the Apple product and they won’t now. It represents extra work for them, and extra costs. Extra costs are not popular these days.

The Mac has hit is glass ceiling. Apple investors may be hoping that the machine can make it out of the consumer market to keep the rapid growth going, but that is not in the cards.

Douglas A. McIntyre