FORTUNE -- Needham's Charlie Wolf has been following Apple (AAPL) long enough to still care what's happening to the Mac,* and on Tuesday he took a crack at explaining why the company's most venerable product line (it turns 30 in January) seems to have, as he puts it, "fallen back to earth."
Beginning in 2005, and for 26 quarters in a row, Mac sales outgrew the industry -- nearly coinciding with a 7.5-year stretch in which Apple's share of the worldwide PC market increased from 2.1% to 5.3% (152%) and its revenue share rose from 3.2% to 11.9% (272%).
That streak ended abruptly in January, when Apple couldn't deliver the newest iMacs in sufficient quantities to meet demand. Mac sales fell 22.1% in a quarter in which the broader market fell 6.6%.
Wolf is less concerned with that one-time event -- which Tim Cook admitted was a screw-up and which appears in the attached chart as a sharp V at calendar Q4 2012 -- as he is with what happened for several quarters before and after.
The Mac is still outpacing the industry, but just barely and only because its sales are falling more slowly than everybody else's.
Why PC sales growth has collapsed is no mystery. The market is largely saturated and most of the money for new purchases is being funneled into smartphones and tablets.
Harder to explain is why the Mac, which used to outgrow the industry by 20% to 30%, is now shrinking at nearly the same rate.
Wolf confesses that he has no "ready explanation," but he does offer a couple of theories:
*For the record, the Mac generated $21.5 billion in revenue for Apple in fiscal 2013, 13% of the company's total sales and more than the total revenue of 368 of the companies in the Fortune 500.
According to Asymco's Horace Dediu, whom Wolf quotes, the Mac's share of PC profits was 45% in March, almost equal to the profit share of all Windows PC companies combined.
The analyst with the Street's second highest Apple price target just lowered his to $595.
FORTUNE -- In September 2012, when Apple (AAPL) was selling for over $700 a share, more than half the analysts we track had price targets in the $750 to $900 range.
By Friday, only two were still at $700 or higher, and on Monday, one of them -- Needham's Charlie Wolf -- lowered his Apple target from MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 12, 2013 9:54 AM ET
China's "white-box" manufacturers may now be the major engine of growth.
FORTUNE -- Consider the two charts at right.
Both were drawn from Gartner's worldwide market share data by Needham's Charlie Wolf, who issued his quarterly report on the smartphone market earlier this week.
The first shows Android cutting into the market share gains Apple (AAPL) made at the end of 2012 when it launched the iPhone 5 and cut the price of the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 29, 2013 10:53 AM ET
The difference between Wolf and Wall Street may be that he values Apple's cash holdings
FORTUNE -- There's something about Charlie Wolf's approach to Apple (AAPL) that I find charmingly old school -- perhaps because he's been in the business even longer (14 years at First Boston and 15 at Needham & Co.) than I have.
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How special are Apple Inc.'s retail outlets?
FORTUNE -- "I don't have very many bad days," Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook told the audience at Goldman Sachs' technology conference Tuesday. "But if I ever feel that I'm dropping down from an excited level, I go and visit a store. It's like a Prozac."
Cook's point was that Apple's retail outlets are not like ordinary stores. "I'm not even sure 'store' is the right MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 13, 2013 8:17 AM ET
Like the tortoise in Achilles' footrace, they may be perpetually unreachable goals
"There's scant evidence that the stock market itself has paid much if any attention to analysts' price targets in recent years," writes Needham's Charlie Wolf in a note to clients Thursday that raises his own Apple (AAPL) target $80 to $620.
He's got a point. the average target among the two-dozen analysts we sampled on October 19, the day after Apple's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 9, 2012 9:14 AM ET
In terms of revenue per sq. ft., think Tiffany's (its nearest rival) multiplied nearly threefold
Apple Stores are always busy places, but they tend to go crazy when a major new product is launched. With the arrival of the iPhone 4S, writes Needham's Charlie Wolf in his tenth annual report on the state of Apple's (AAPL) retail empire, they went absolutely nuts.
The numbers for the quarter that ended Dec. 31:
Revenue per MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 5, 2012 7:35 AM ET
Goldman Sachs, Needham and Hudson Square Research issue new notes
You can tell you're getting close to an Apple (AAPL) earnings report when the analysts start dusting off their spreadsheets and issuing new estimates. At least three came in on Monday.
Needham's Charlie Wolf made the biggest adjustment, hiking his earnings estimate to $10.85 from $9.55 on Street-high sales of $41.15 billion, up more than $3 billion from his previous estimate. He MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 9, 2012 12:57 PM ET
Charlie Wolf invokes "Diffusion of Innovations" in raising his Apple price target to $540
In Everett Rogers' classic text on how innovations percolate through societies, he describes how hybrid corn, despite 20% higher yield and resistance to drought, took two decades to become ubiquitous in the farms of Iowa. High-tech innovations spread more quickly these days, but they too follow Rogers' S curve, from early adopters to mainstream use to late MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 6, 2011 7:47 AM ET
Mean analyst estimate: 7.9 million. The amateurs, as usual, are more bullish than the pros
Apple (AAPL) is scheduled to report its fiscal third quarter earnings on July 19, a week from today, and in preparation for our quarterly earnings smackdown we've been gathering estimates from the small army of analysts -- profession and amateur -- who follow the company.
The biggest mystery this quarter -- and the biggest discrepancy in unit MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 12, 2011 6:15 AM ET
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