Mac sales miss industry average: IDC

Apple’s U.S. Mac sales were up just eight per cent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same period last year, less than half that of the industry average, research firm IDC said yesterday.

But analysts at rival Gartner had Mac sales up 34 per cent year-over-year, illustrating the difficulty that outside experts have in estimating sales at the notoriously secretive Apple .

“Apple is a tough one,” admitted Jay Chou, a research analyst with IDC’s quarterly PC sales tracking team. “Our estimates are done through our respective channel checks, but Apple doesn’t talk about sales to anyone before its earnings statement.”

Apple will hold its next quarterly conference call with Wall Street and industry analysts Tuesday. That leaves both IDC and Gartner facing a guessing game that at times has produced wildly different sales estimates. Last July, for example, IDC pegged Apple’s second quarter sales as down 12 per cent, while Gartner said they would be up 2.5 per cent. Gartner ended up being closer to the numbers Apple issued later.

U.S. industry average sales growth was 17 per cent by IDC’s tally, and a more robust 20 per cent by Gartner’s. Global averages were even higher: IDC pegged worldwide PC sales gains at 24 per cent, while Gartner estimated growth at 27 per cent, year-over-year.

Both IDC and Gartner again had Apple in fifth place in U.S. sales, the same spot it occupied in the fourth quarter of 2009. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Toshiba led Apple last quarter, just as they had at the end of 2009.

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