|Part of Apple's ability to defy -- sometimes quite dramatically -- the ongoing slump of traditional PC sales may be due to a slow-growing but increasing acceptance of Macs in the enterprise. Needham & Company analyst Charlie Wolf has highlighted the growth in a note to investors using data from the September quarter, showing that sales of Macs to US businesses has nearly doubled over the past year, from 5.4 percent in fiscal Q4 2011 to 9.3 percent in the most recent quarter. While sales of PCs to the business sector were down 13.3 percent year-over-year, Apple was up more than 21 percent in the same period.
Even more importantly, Apple is making significant inroads in its share of revenue from Mac sales, reaching 17.4 percent of all business-sales revenue in the September quarter. This again is up substantially from a year ago, where it had 10.7 percent of revenues.
Wolf primarily credits Apple (and, perhaps ironically, Microsoft) with having added features, such as Exchange compatibility, to make Macs work more seamlessly with Windows infrastructures. Macs can also run Windows programs either through virtualization or Apple's Boot Camp partition solution, making Macs the only computers that can natively run all four of the most popular business platforms -- Windows, Linux, Mac and UNIX -- and a platform that can run older versions of Windows and other OSes, sometimes crucial for software compatibility.
Another factor, he said, was the "halo effect" of the enormous impact iPhones and iPads have had (along with the "Bring Your Own Device" paradigm now widely used in enterprise) in corporate environments. While Microsoft's Windows still rules the roost in business, changes in IT practices and improvements Microsoft has made over the years to make alternate operating systems more compatible have benefitted OS X to "enable the Mac to become a more responsible, if not first-class, citizen in Microsoft's network environment," Wolf said.
Apple sold around 4.9 million Macs in its fiscal fourth quarter and is expected to sell about the same number (possibly slightly less) in the holiday quarter, as sales focus shifts away from institutions and businesses back towards consumer buying. Overall, Mac sales have grown at a very slow rate -- about one percent YOY for 2012 -- but have outgrown PC sales consistently for over six years.