Mac shipments collapse as COVID-powered buying frenzy stalls

A 2023 14-inch MacBook Pro on a wooden counter, near a retro lamp.
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

Apple's Mac shipments plummeted by more than 40% during the first quarter of 2023, according to new data shared by analysts at IDC. This is despite Apple shipping an updated M2-powered MacBook Air.

The number, which compares Mac shipments to the same period in 2022, will make depressing reading for Apple with Mac shipments falling a whopping 40.5% in the space of twelve months.

Apple was far from alone in seeing negative growth this time around, but that figure did mean that it was the worst impacted among the companies on the list.

"Recovery could be a slog"

IDC's numbers show that computer shipments across the board fell by 29% for the same period, with Lenovo, HP, Dell, and Asus all impacted. The worst hit, behind Apple of course, was Dell which saw shipments of its own machines fall by 31%.

As for why people aren't buying computers, despite Apple now making the best Macs it's ever produced, there are a couple of factors to be considered.

IDC suggests that these numbers represent an end to the era of COVID-driven demand and at least a temporary return to pre-COVID patterns. That suggests that analysts believe that the boost in computer sales caused by COVID — with people working from home and often needing to replace aging computers — has now well and truly come to an end. In that regard, some could argue that this fall in shipments was always going to happen eventually.

Another potential reason for the reduction in shipments is the ongoing global economic situation which could have people thinking twice before buying a new computer.

However, Linn Huang, research vice president, Devices and Displays at IDC, believes that 2024 could see matters improve. "By 2024, an aging installed base will start coming up for refresh," Huang said. "If the economy is trending upwards by then, we expect significant market upside as consumers look to refresh, schools seek to replace worn down Chromebooks, and businesses move to Windows 11."

How much any of that will help Apple shift more Macs remains to be seen of course.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.