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Apple’s stock took a dive after the company reported its first profit decline in nine years.  Much of the problem was higher spending on new products, but one line item that was of particular interest was the Mac sales decline.  Sales of Macs fell to 4.1 million in the fiscal first quarter from 5.2 million a year ago, a difference of 1.1 million or 16 percent.  Why the Mac decline?

First, Apple’s fiscal first quarter was 13 weeks, one week shorter than the same period a year ago, but that alone didn’t account for the shortfall.  If you look at the per week sales numbers, Apple sold just 312,000 Macs per week in 2012 compared to 371,000 per week during the same time period a year ago.

The bigger issue were supply constraints on the iMac, which accounted for 700,000 units of the total Mac decline year over year due.  Apple executives didn’t expand on why it faced supply constraints on its conference call on Wednesday, but analysts have suggested that Apple’s shift to a new lamination process on the iMac display from the retina display may have slowed down production.  As a result, Apple was only able to provide 3 to 4 weeks of inventory, below its target of 4 to 5 weeks.

“We announced the new iMacs late in October,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook on a conference call with analysts on Wednesday, “and when we announced those, we announced that they would ship—the first one, the 21.5-inch—in November, and we did ship it at the end of November. We announced that the 27-inch would ship in December, and we did ship that in mid-December. And so there were limited weeks of ramping on these products during the quarter.”

Another issue for Mac was the overall decline in PC demand as consumers move to the tablet market.  Apple sold more than 23 million iPads, and Cook said that some cannibalization was almost certainly a factor.  However, he said the company viewed cannibalization as an opportunity and not a concern.

“We know that iPhone has cannibalized some iPod business, it doesn’t worry us that it’s done that; we know that iPad will cannibalize some Macs—it doesn’t worry us,” Cook said.

Even though the new, thinner iMacs shipped at the end of 2012, consumers looking to buy one may still have to wait awhile.  “We’ll significantly increase supply,” Cook said of the new iMacs, “but demand is very strong and we’re not certain we’ll achieve a balance this quarter.”

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