It’s been a fast paced start to the year for Apple. The electronics superpower has rolled out a new laptop, new desktops, and even a new iPod Shuffle -- priced for the recession at $79. However, what would normally make for another record setting start of the year for Apple is fast turning south as fears of the recession has sent customers fleeing from Apple's pricey luxury lineup.
After seeing its sales growth surpassed by PCs for the first time in months in January, the latest figures show that February was far worse for Apple. The NPD Group has released its sales figures for the month and they are worse than even Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster's pessimistic forecast.
Both iPod and Mac sales were down 16 percent year-to-year. The worst predicted by analysts was around a 4 percent drop. Analysts were somewhat predicting the drop as last February was a particularly good month for Apple, and Apple only released its new desktops and iPod in March.
Munster's new predictions place total iPod sales for the quarter ending in March at around 9 to 10 million units. He predicts that 2 to 2.2 million Mac computers will ship in the same period. The Street is predicting 9.5 million iPods. These figures are not significantly worse than last year, and represent analyst optimism that Apple's new products will lead to a strong March.
Thus, the real test for Apple will be how its sales have fared at the end of March. While January was a letdown and February was undeniably downward trending for Apple, a strong March could salvage an otherwise rocky quarter.
One potential ace in Apple's sleeve is the announcement of the iPhone OS version 3.0 later today. No one knows quite when Apple will release the new OS, but many are speculating wildly, including guessing at new hardware (every past x.0 release has been accompanied by new hardware). Big news could stave off the Wall Street wolves for a little while, even if Apple's sales disappoint.