Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Did Apple sell 4 million Macs?

October 11, 2010: 6:30 AM ET

Back-to-school sales and a refreshed desktop line may have pushed it over the edge

Source: Company reports

The iPad's been getting a lot more buzz lately, but Apple's (AAPL) computer line is still the company's No. 2 source of revenue (after the iPhone) -- a point likely to be driven home again when Apple reports its fiscal fourth quarter earnings next Monday.

How's the Mac doing? Unit sales, which stalled in Q2 as customers waited for the new MacBooks that arrived in April and May, took off in Q3, coming in just shy of 3.5 million.

Although Apple's competitors saw PC sales weaken this summer, all signs suggest that the Mac was the exception, driven by back-to-school sales and the new desktop models released in late July (not to mention store traffic from people coming in to buy iPhones and iPads).

The average Q4 unit sales estimateĀ of the 31 analysts we've polled is 3.84 million Macs. Five of them, however, expect Apple to report that it sold 4 million or more.

Below: The estimates we've gathered so far. Per several readers' requests, we've included a measure of the accuracy of each analyst's previous estimates, using (where available) Daniel "Deagol" Tello's Q3 ranking system. See here.

Analyst, affiliation Macs (millions) Date of est. Deagol Q3 ranking
Nicolae Mihalache, Traderhood 4.15 10/1/10 27
Alexis Cabot, Apple Finance Board 4.12 10/1/10 2
Dennis Hildebrand, Apple's Gold 4.06 9/28/10 24
Jeff Fosberg, Apple Finance Board 4.05 9/30/10 7
Jeff Fidacaro, Susquehanna 4.01 9/22/10 16
Robert Paul Leitao, Apple Finance Board 3.98 10/1/10 8
Horace Dediu, Asymco 3.97 9/28/10 1
Yair Reiner, Oppenheimer 3.97 10/7/10 3
Ralph Schackart, William Blair 3.96 10/6/10 19
Alex Gauna, JMP Securities 3.95 10/6/10
Rajesh Ghai, Think Equity 3.94 10/5/10 30
Daniel Tello, Deagol's AAPL Model 3.93 9/29/10 4
Turley Muller, Financial Alchemist 3.90 10/7/10 10
T. Michael Walkley, Canaccord Genuity 3.89 10/7/10
Mark Moskowitz, J.P. Morgan 3.86 10/7/10 32
Keith Bachman, BMO Capital 3.81 10/6/10 21
Andy Zaky, Bullish Cross 3.80 9/29/10 6
Shaw Wu, Kaufman Bros. 3.80 9/20/10 25
Brian Marshall, Gleacher & Co. 3.80 9/28/10 18
Robert Cihra, Caris & Co. 3.80 9/23/10
Tavis McCourt, Morgan Keegan 3.78 10/4/10 26
Doug Reid, Stifel Nicholaus 3.77 9/30/10 12
Ben Reitzes, Barclays Capital 3.75 9/29/10 29
Chris Whitmore, Deutsche Bank 3.72 10/4/10 15
Nehal Chokshi, Technology Insights 3.72 10/9/10 13
Ashok Kumar, Rodman & Renshaw 3.70 10/6/10 31
Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray 3.70 10/7/10 23
Scott Craig, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch 3.66 10/8/10 9
Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley 3.60 10/7/10 22
William Fearnley, Janney Capital 3.55 8/25/10 14
Matthew Hoffman, Cowen & Co. 3.32 9/14/10 28

. . .

We'll find out who was closest this time when Apple reports its Q4 earnings after the closing bell on Oct. 18.

See also:

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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