Big opportunity for Mac sales in China
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Big opportunity for Mac sales in China

If there's one big opportunity for Mac sales, it's in China. Our favorite computing platform still has little market share there, but Apple is a popular brand and China is a hotbed of computer growth.

Results from the International Data Corporation (IDC) "Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker" show that personal computer shipments in the China market have exceeded those of the United States in the second quarter of 2011 (2Q11).

Approximately 18.5 million units worth US$11.9 billion shipped in China during the quarter, compared to 17.7 million units worth US$11.7 billion in the U.S. China represented 22% of the global computer market's unit shipments compared to the US at 21%.

On a full year basis, IDC still expects the U.S. to remain the largest market in 2011, with 73.5 million units forecast to be shipped in the U.S. versus 72.4 million in China. Similarly, holiday season buying in the U.S. will likely keep it ahead of China in the fourth quarter, especially as China's market contracts after its third quarter summer promotions. IDC doesn't expect China to exceed the U.S. in full year shipments until 2012, when 85.2 million units are forecast to be shipped in China and 76.6 million units in the U.S.

"There are of course still risks ahead for China, including not just inflation but also the impact of economic conditions in the U.S. and Europe," says Kitty Fok, Vice President for Greater China Research at IDC. "But in the meantime, the Chinese government's 12th Five-Year Plan should help large enterprises in various infrastructure verticals to continue to move along, not to mention of course the ongoing efforts to increase consumer penetration in lower-tier cities."

"China's lead in the personal computer market is a huge shift that reflects the rising fortunes of emerging markets as well as the relative stagnation of more mature regions," adds Loren Loverde, program vice president, Worldwide PC Tracker. "While the immediate economic circumstances in the US and other markets had a significant impact on the timing of China's move to the lead, they have not changed the trend, but accelerated it."

Apple is already making progress in China. Apple’s sales in greater China have for the first time overtaken those of Lenovo, the world’s third-biggest personal computer maker by shipment volume, according to the "Financial Times" ( Demand for iPhones, iPads and Macs pushed Apple’s second-quarter sales in greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, up sixfold from a year ago to $3.8 billion.

Last December it was reported that several Apple products are facing significant demand in China, with the 11-inch MacBook Air, certain versions of the iPad, and the iPhone 4 all facing shortages, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White told clients in a note. In a tour of the Far East, he noted the iPad and 11-inch MacBook Air were hard to find.

As is happening just about everywhere else, an increasing number of consumers in China are following a global trend of opting for the iPad and other tablet computers over traditional computers. Lenovo Chief Executive Officer Yang Yuanqing has attributed weaker growth in the nation’s computer market to the shift to tablets.

Still, that doesn't mean there's no Chinese demand for desktops and traditional laptops. And if the country's citizens love the iPad and the MacBook Air, Apple can turn that affection into sales of other Macs.

Of course, Apple's global growth is accelerating overall, it seems. Recently, it was reported ( that the Mac's sales are growing significantly in western Europe and France.

For those who think that the Mac is doomed in this "post-PC" world, think again. There's tremendous growth potential for our favorite computing platform. And no place has more potential than China.

-- Dennis Sellers


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