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We saw Apple's troubles all along – market researcher

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US-based market research agency OneChannel.net is claiming to have spotted the downward sales trend that last week forced Apple to admit that its profits will be 30 per cent off predicted targets.

OneChannel claimed today that its numbers - derived from its online retail partners' sales figures - showed a "general downward trend in US online sales of Macintosh computers from April through July".

Hmmm. OneChannel gets its numbers from online retailers such as Outpost.com, Buy.com and Egghead.com (which only sells software, so isn't much use in this particular debate). Even OneChannel is forced to admit that "it remains to be seen whether online purchases are a bellwether for overall sales trends" and that "the online channel is... only one way Apple sells products", so its data is unlikely to show the full picture.

But what is the company's picture? OneChannel's figures show that during May, Apple's online sales dipped below the stats company's industry average, and stayed there. It's telling that Apple's sales pretty much trail the average, lagging behind its trend line only during July, which is probably a sign that buyers spent most of that month awaiting the launch and then shipment of Apple's new MacWorld Expo-announced Macs. By mid-August, Apple's sales had caught up with the average and even began to surpass it at the end of September.

Indeed, from March through April, Apple's sales were much higher than the average, and since that doesn't seem out of the ordinary, it's hard to see the subsequent drop below OneChannel's average as being anything special either.

"Quarterly reports masked the trend, however, because Apple's April sales were quite high," says the report. "Apple's sales rose in the back-to-school season, but the low July results pulled third calendar quarter results down to a level more than 20 per cent below the second quarter."

Maybe, but then the PC average was down quite a bit on the previous quarter too. So all that really says is that Apple had a good April and a poor July - not much, you'd have thought, to really define a trend.

It has to be said, there's an element of 'I told you so' in OneChannel's report, largely because it's really just a poorly disguised attempt to flog the company's online real-time market stats service. The implication is clear: if you'd have had our service, you wouldn't have been surprised by Apple's news.

A very moot point, we feel. OneChannel's numbers just seem to show is that Apple's sales metrics aren't quite the same as the rest of the PC business, which shouldn't surprise anyone. That's not to say the company's numbers don't have value, just that it's a bit much to say, on the basis of the numbers they're currently touting, that those numbers reveal the full story behind Apple's profit warning. Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing. ®

Related Link

OneChannel.net's stats can be found here

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