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IDC miscounts Macs again, awards Apple fifth place in global PC sales one year too late

IDC doesn't like counting iPads among its global PC figures, but it doesn't seem to like counting Macs either, given its back-to-back quarterly undercounting of Apple's computer sales.

Yesterday, IDC released numbers indicating that Apple had finally made it into the top five PC makers globally on sales of Macs (not including any iPad sales).

According to the firm's latest numbers, Apple's Mac sales grew by 8.9 percent in a globally market that overall retracted by 1.7 percent, as long as you compare IDC's current numbers from the year ago quarter with its latest estimate of Mac sales for calendar Q3.

However, if you compare IDC's current shipping estimates of the PC market against what the company "preliminarily" reported a year ago (below), global PC shipments are actually down by 3.8 percent, because last year IDC said that Q3 shipments reached 81.6 million. Today it reports that only 79.9 million PCs shipped in the year ago quarter.

IDC Q3 2013 shipments

Additionally, last year IDC ranked Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer and Asus as the top five PC vendors, with fifth place Asus reportedly having shipped 4.2 million PCs. However, Apple itself reported selling 4.6 million Macs that quarter (the company's fiscal Q4).

That means Apple should have edged out Asus a year ago to take the fifth place among PC makers. IDC retroactively adjusted its numbers to report that Apple sold 4.577 million Macs in the year ago quarter, which also would have edged out the estimate it published for Asus last year, when it implied Apple wasn't even in the top five.

This all happened before

Three months ago, IDC similarly lowballed its estimates for Mac shipments, reporting that Apple's calendar Q2 U.S. shipments fell by 1.7 percent while U.S. PC sales had grown by 6.9 percent. Gartner similarly reported that U.S. Mac sales had retracted by 1.3 percent, while crediting generic PCs with growth of 7.4 percent. Three months ago, IDC similarly lowballed its estimates for Mac shipments

However, when Apple released its actual Mac sales at the end of July, it reported that Macs had actually seen "strong double digit growth" in the U.S. along with a series of other markets, a direct contradiction of the story presented by IDC and Gartner that generic PCs were growing faster than Mac sales.

While Apple doesn't detail its product breakdown by region, Apple's chief financial officer Luca Maestri specifically noted, "we achieved strong double digit Mac growth across many countries, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, Australia, China, India and the Middle-East" during the company's earnings call.

"This growth is particularly impressive, given the contraction of the overall PC market. Macs have now gained global market share for 32 of the last 33 quarters," Maestri added.

With IDC finally now including Apple into its top five PC vendors, it will be possible to directly compare IDC's "estimates" against Apple's actual Mac sales. Previously, the firm has only reported U.S. figures for Apple.

IDC & Gartner ignore iPads for good reason

In calculating their PC "market share" estimates, both IDC and Gartner include low end netbook and hybrid devices and Windows tablets. IDC also counts Chromebook web browser devices, but both firms exclude sales of Apple's iPad from their PC sales figures.

If they had included iPads and other tablets in their PC figures, they would be forced to recognize Apple as being the largest computer maker globally by a wide margin. Despite much media handwringing about Apple's year-over-year decrease in iPad sales, the company still sold 13.3 million iPads globally in the second quarter, more than Samsung, Lenovo and Asus (the next three largest vendors, according to IDC) combined.

Canalys is one market research company that does report combined sales of PCs and tablets without excluding iPads, although it has not yet publicly released its figures for Q3. For Q2, Canalys reported that Apple was the largest global vendor of computers with a 14 percent share of all computers sold.

Canalys PC shipments Q2 2014

Lenovo came in a very close second place overall, while HP, Dell and Samsung roughly tied for third place. Lenovo, HP and Dell sell more conventional desktops and notebooks than Apple, but none of those vendors sell many tablets. Conversely, Samsung is second in tablets but sells very few conventional PCs.