The MacBook boom is over

The lid of Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air, seen from above.
Luke Larson/

Apple has had three years of remarkable success for the MacBook. Heading into 2020, Macs felt like the ugly stepchild of Apple’s flagship product lines, often ignored in favor of updates to the iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. I never would have imagined that Mac hardware would become the most exciting aspect of Apple press events in the next few years.

But as 2023 draws to a close, MacBook sales are down again, as rumors point to a lack of any new Mac releases during the holiday season. It’s clear that the huge surge of innovation and interest in MacBooks is over – even if that’s not a bad thing in the long run.

perfect storm

At WWDC Tim Cook announced a two-year transition from Macs to Apple silicon.
Apple

There are two primary reasons to explain the success that the MacBook has enjoyed over the past few years. Of course, COVID is the most obvious, as it has led to unprecedented growth in laptops, desktops, and PCs of all types. With employees fleeing offices, almost everyone needed an upgrade in their home office, which also led to a severe shortage of PCs. PC enthusiasts were happy to announce that the industry was at fault about the death of the PC after all.

The MacBook boom was introduced long before Apple made any changes to the lineup. According to IDC, Macs experienced 22.5% growth from 2019 to 2020. The fourth quarter, which also includes holiday shopping, was certainly Mac’s biggest quarter, but there’s no doubt that the overall increase in demand played a key role in the growth.

Apple hit the jackpot in 2020.

But that ended a long time ago. Again, according to IDC data, all laptop makers other than Apple experienced a severe decline in year-on-year growth in 2022. If you are HP, it is up to 25%. Ouch. But Mac shipments in 2022 were still up 2.5%, which means more of the growth came from remote workers buying laptops.

This is where the second big factor, Apple silicon, comes into play. In 2020, Apple began to transition away from Intel to its own M-series chips. Despite all the things that could have gone wrong, the transformation has been an undeniable achievement. Not only were the M1 Macs decidedly better than their Intel counterparts, but they offered a unique value proposition in the broader landscape of laptops. Big improvements to the MacBook Pro arrived in 2021, and just like that, the Mac became the most popular subbrand in Apple’s ecosystem. Apple managed to release a great new line of products when demand was unnaturally high.

the new normal

Apple's John Ternes stands next to an image of a 15-inch MacBook Air at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2023.
apple apple

It’s 2023, and 2021 is far behind us. It is reported that MacBook sales have declined by 30% this year. It’s clear that we have already reached the peak of the Mac resurgence – and again, the reason for this is twofold. The natural slowdown that has brought PC sales down to pre-pandemic levels has finally reached the Mac, and the excitement around the most recent crop of Macs has waned.

Despite the fact that Apple launched a brand new Mac this year (the 15-inch MacBook Air) and updated four others, there is undoubtedly less hype about the Mac than before.

First, Apple usually holds winter or late autumn events focused on Mac and iPad. Over the years, it has been used to launch important devices like the M1 MacBook Air and M1 Max MacBook Pro. Apple skipped this event in 2022, and from what we can tell so far, it’s skipping it in 2023 as well. Furthermore, the latest reports indicate that we won’t see it Any Mac releases this fall.

A big change has happened in the world of Mac in 2020 itself.

All this gives the impression that Apple is drumming up updates and releases. But it’s really about setting realistic expectations about these products.

Big changes have already happened in the Mac world in 2020. None of us should have expected a moment of excitement and hype in the Mac world like what happened in 2020 and 2021. It was a monumental moment in the Mac world, and one that changed these devices for the better.

While there’s no doubt that devices will get faster, thinner, and longer-lasting from here on out, everything is flowing from that big change in technology. But that’s not a bad thing – in fact, it should be exactly what Mac fans want.






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