updated 01:15 pm EDT, Sat June 25, 2011
Deconstructing a bad leak of MacBook Air shipments
A rumor floated on Friday claimed that Apple would be shipping no less than eight million new MacBook Air systems in the summer. It also alleged that four million Airs will have shipped in the spring. Unfortunately, that's just not true, and we'll show why -- along with what Digitimes likely actually meant.
As most who pay attention to Apple's numbers will tell you, the company shipped 3.76 million Macs, of any kind, in the winter. For Apple to have shipped four million MacBook Airs in 2011, it would have outshipped its entire Mac mix with just one model in just one quarter; eight million in the summer would have Apple doubling its entire Mac share in half a year with one notebook. Apple has been growing where the Windows PC business has been shrinking, but even optimistic targets wouldn't go that far.
For reference, IDC first-quarter estimates show that with eight million MacBook Airs, Apple would instantly become at least the fourth largest computer builder in the world.
Moreover, the leak itself contradicts those expectations. Its projections have a raised forecast of 15 million MacBooks of all variants in 2011. Even another optimistic (and unrealistic) look, suggesting that Apple will have shipped 2.4 million MacBooks in June and 2.8 million in July, wouldn't see Apple moving that many of one computer so soon.
What prompted the error, then? Assuming any truth exists in the rumor to begin with, we believe the authors may literally have misplaced a zero. Apple is far more likely to have shipped 400,000 MacBook Air systems in the spring and to be stepping that up to 800,000 in the summer. The current generation is far more popular than the older version owing to the $999 price and much improved design, but it's still one piece of a strategy that's known to still lean much more on the MacBook Pro for most of its sales.
Having said this, many do expect the MacBook Air to become a more important part of Apple's lineup in this year. One Gleacher estimate suggests it could be as many as 48 percent of MacBook shipments in 2011, most of those coming later in the year. It's just that Apple's prediction of the Air becoming the "future of MacBooks" will take longer than Digitimes is predicting.