On Wednesday, Apple released some huge quarterly sales numbers for what they call the first quarter of 2021, but most of us recognize as the 4th quarter of 2020 by the calendar. They beat every expectation that the street held and set records for revenue. Every product category was up, some by really surprising amounts. It felt as close to the late 2000s and early 2010s, when every quarter successive quarter brought news like this, as we can get today.
There was additional Apple sales news yesterday of a more specific nature. The company stopped officially releasing device sales numbers a few years ago, but that certainly hasn’t stopped analysts from projecting them for us by various means.
Apple’s reported revenue and sales growth figures for the iPad were the most impressive of the bunch on Wednesday. Those numbers got a little more context yesterday, courtesy of the well-known analyst firm Canalys.
Both the fourth quarter and yearly device shipment numbers are quite impressive.
Apple is still well ahead in both tablet shipments and market share and it’s a position they are unlikely to relinquish as long as they continue to show strong annual growth. It’s a lead that they’ve held by a significant margin for eleven years now. However, it’s also clear from these numbers that a rising tablet tide has also lifted other boats, especially Samsung’s. People newly working and attending school from home during the pandemic bought lots of tablets. Samsung is the top Android tablet manufacturer, so I guess that’s not surprising.
The part of Canalys’ report that I found most interesting was the combined tablet and computer shipment numbers.
Apple has a very strong position as the number two computer vendor in the world right now. Surprisingly strong. While Dell and HP only grew a small amount in the last quarter of 2020, Lenovo and Apple lead the way, with both surging in total shipments. When you consider that the iPad Air and M1 Macs just came out in that last quarter, there is also a lot of potential for continued growth over the whole of 2021.
One thing I can’t help but notice is that Microsoft’s name is absent from this list. Despite the popularity of their Surface line of products, the media favor they have, and the mindshare they generate, the sales don’t necessarily match the perception.
I can’t help but throw a little shade Microsoft’s way, but it isn’t just because I’m an Apple fan. In fact, for those who may be new here, I’m actually a Windows user on the desktop. I even have a Surface Pro as a backup machine for work. However, even though I don’t dislike Microsoft, I do get a little tired of the tech press and community narrative that the Surface line is surging. It is a very well designed and executed product line, but the sales figures here tell a different tale of who goes where in the current pecking order. I’m sure that sales of Surface devices are increasing, but they still aren’t enough to make a dent in the top five computer and tablet manufacturers.
It will be really interesting to see how Apple’s device sales fare over the course of 2021. Based on Canalys’ numbers from the end of 2020, the future looks bright for them on the iPad and Mac fronts.