As most other PC makers are in a race to the bottom in terms of price, Apple's pricing discipline, analyst Charlie Wolf with Needham & Company said Wednesday, has been a tremendous asset. Apple's dollar share of the worldwide consumer PC market has continued to grow since early 2004, when it was just 3 percent.
The Mac's dollar share in the U.S. home market is even more impressive, at about 20 percent, while it unit share sits around 10 percent. And in the European home market, Apple has about 6.4 percent of sales, but 14.2 percent of revenue.
One strong country for Apple has been France, where this week it was revealed that the Mac broke into the top 5 in terms of overall holiday sales. Apple saw 43.5 percent year-over-year growth in sales to sell 182,000 machines.
Wolf's note to investors on Wednesday morning gave an in-depth breakdown of Mac sales during the company's December quarter. The Cupertino, Calif., company's first fiscal quarter of 2010 proved to be its best ever, with sales of 3.36 million Macs helping to propel its revenue more than 50 percent to $3.38 billion.
Wolf said that Mac shipments grew 32 percent in December, versus the rest of the PC market seeing a 16.9 percent increase. The December quarter was the second in a row that Apple topped 3 million Mac sales, and holiday sales were 4.5 times higher than they were in the same three-month frame in 2004.
"Apple sold more Macs in the December quarter than it did in calendar 2003 and almost as many as it did in 2004," Wolf wrote. "The most popular explanation for the surge in Mac sales has been the iPod halo effect. The iPod was the first Apple product Windows users ever purchased. And the iPod so delighted them that a meaningful percentage switched to the Mac as a result."
Another major contributor to switchers: Apple's retail stores. Wolf said when customers enter an Apple store to buy an iPod or an iPhone "could not fail to notice and appreciate the free support infrastructure Apple bundles into the price of Macs." Apple has noted for some time that about half of all in-store Mac sales come from Windows switchers.
For Apple, the momentum looks to continue. January Mac sales were estimated to have grown 36 percent, putting them on pace for 2.8 million for the quarter. A forthcoming refresh of Apple's MacBook Pro line is expected to help boost sales.
Wolf also noted that Apple's share of the U.S. education market is on the rebound, with about a 20 percent market share last quarter - and nearly a 40 percent dollar share. Wolf sees the forthcoming iPad as having the potential to replace low-cost PCs in both secondary and higher education markets.
"It is not difficult to imagine classrooms where the iPad takes center stage, capturing a significant percentage of the school market in the process," Wolf said.