Analyst: Apple Could Double Market Share With Resellers


One company that could provide a big boost in Mac sales is Dell Inc., said Mark Stahlman, author of a recent Gartner Invest report that targeted Apple investors. Gartner Invest is a unit of technology researcher Gartner.

Dell would be an excellent choice as a Mac reseller because both the PC manufacturer and Apple have close ties to chipmaker Intel, Stahlman said. Apple this year moved its entire line of Mac desktops and notebooks to the Intel platform, a key driver behind Apple's record sales.

"Intel has a high degree of interest in trying to help both companies," Stahlman said.

That interest, of course, is in selling more microprocessors, particularly as it faces stiffening competition from Advanced Micro Devices.

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Apple, with the right strategy, has the potential to grab 10, 15 or possibly 20 percent of the consumer computer market, but it'll need help, Stahlman said.

"This is not something they can do on their own," he said.

The Cupertino, Calif., computer maker would have to partner with manufacturers and resellers to expand distribution, and lower its prices to better compete with the PC, Stahlman said. Such a shift in strategy would take time, so Gartner Invest does not predict when Apple could grab a double-digit market share.

Apple had licensed the Mac to other manufacturers up until about 10 years ago, when chief executive and founder Steve Jobs returned to the company and decided to cancel all contracts.

Meanwhile, Mac shipments in the third quarter of this year grew by 31 percent from the same period a year ago to 975,000 units, according to Gartner. The surge was driven by the company's shift from IBM's PowerPC platform to Intel, and its focus on the notebook market, which is growing far faster than the desktop market, Charles Smulders, PC analyst for the firm, said.

While Apple's market performance over the last five years has been erratic, "we think they are positioned to gain some market share over the coming year," Smulders said.

Challenges facing the company, however, include its focus on the mature markets of Western Europe and the United States, which are not growing nearly as fast as the emerging markets in the Asia Pacific region, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Smulders said. Those markets, however, would demand lower prices in order to consider the Mac over the PC.

"One of the barriers to success they face is the perceived entry cost of the Apple platform relative to PCs," Smulders said. "Emerging markets tend to be more price competitive."

With more competitive prices, Apple would also have a shot at increasing market share among small businesses in the United States and elsewhere, Gartner analyst Mika Kitagawa said. Small businesses are a better opportunity for Apple than large corporations, because the latter has already invested heavily in the PC platform.

"The challenge for Apple is to get into the general business market," Kitagawa said. "Apple doesn't have comparable products to compete with Dell and HP (Hewlett-Packard)."

Nevertheless, Apple's recent progress has been impressive. The company on Wednesday reported that it shipped a record 1.6 million Macs in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, a 30 percent increase over the same period a year ago. For the full fiscal year, Apple sold 5.3 million Macs.