Are Mac Sales Up or Down? Do Analysts Know Anything?

IDC and Gartner both estimate that PC sales are down for 2013Q1 with estimates of -13.9% and -11.2%, respectively. However, IDC says US Mac sales are down 7.5% while Gartner is claiming that US Mac sales are up 7.4%.

IDC US market share and growth projections via



Gartner US market share and growth projections via



So which is it? I guess we will have to wait for the Apple earnings call later this month, but I bring this to the fore-front because analysts love to throw around estimates for unit sales all the time and I often question the accuracy of their estimates. Some readers retort with responses that are phrased similarly to:

"Do you think a respected firm like IDC does not know what they are doing?"


"I'm pretty sure Gartner is more capable than you at estimating these numbers!"

So I would like to take this moment to reiterate that a single report from a single analyst is pretty much meaningless, because even the analysts don't agree with each other. When you get ten or more reports and develop a consensus then you may in fact be on to something. Just because IDC claims Samsung sold a zillion smartphones in a quarter hardly makes it truth.

The nice thing about Apple (or Nokia) is that the analysts get to check their answers every quarter when the company reports actual quarterly units sold. When it comes to Samsung or HTC or LG, the analysts have not had their answers checked in several years. In fact each subsequent estimate from these analysts is based on that analyst's previous estimate for units sold and their previous projection for that vendor's growth. This causes errors to be compounded on top of errors. Moreover, we don't get ten or more analysts projecting Samsung's unit sales for smartphones from which to derive a consensus, but we get two or possibly three data points to work from.

If you are still hesitant to abandon trust in these analyst reports then simply wait for Fortune to do its next roundup of analyst predictions for Apple earnings. You will notice that the range of predictions is pretty wide: