Apple sets sales records

Apple reported today that it sold more Macs and iPhones last quarter than in any other three-month period in the company's history, with executives using words like “phenomenal” to describe its performance.

“It was a spectacular quarter,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “It's as if the recession never happened to Apple.”

In the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Apple sold 3.05 million Macs worldwide, an increase of 442,000 over the next-best quarter, which was the same calendar quarter in 2008, said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer.

“This was Apple's most profitable quarter ever, and Apple had more sales of Macs and iPhones than any quarter ever,” Oppenheimer said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Apple's sales have outpaced the industry average for 19 out of the last 20 quarters, Oppenheimer added. The one exception: This year's first quarter, when Apple failed for the first time since 2003 to grow Mac sales year-over-year.

Oppenheimer also said that Apple was “thrilled” to set an iPhone sales record, moving nearly 7.4 million units of the smartphone in the last three months. Apple will also start selling the iPhone in China, the world's largest mobile phone market, later this month, said Oppenheimer.

Globally, Mac sales were up 17% compared with the same period a year ago. Although Apple didn't break out U.S. sales separately, numbers generated in the Americas and at retail — most of its retail stores are in the U.S. — totaled 1.92 million Macs, up 11.6% from the 1.72 million it sold in those same categories last year.

Last week, IDC and Gartner, the two research firms that estimate Apple's U.S. sales each quarter, pegged Apple's U.S. sales for the third calendar quarter at 11.8% and 6.8%, respectively.

Desktop demise

“The last quarter was the quarter of the portable,” said Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, the executive who ran the company for several months when CEO Steve Jobs was on medical leave. “Sales of Mac portables were up 35% year-over-year. This was a blow-up quarter.”

There was considerable truth to Cook's characterization. In July, August and September, Apple sold 2.3 million Mac notebooks and only 787,000 desktops, posting a year-over-year gain in the former of 35% and a year-over-year decline of 16% in the latter.

“Desktop sales have reached a point where they're never going to come back,” opined Gottheil. “The turnover point has been reached, when whole new configurations are in the home, in dorm rooms. People may have a screen they use for other purposes, too, but people aren't having a box any longer.”

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