Apple's Mac shipments in the third quarter are a mystery

Apple has not provided sales data for the iPhone, Mac, and iPad in the past few years, and analysts, customers, and investors have no idea about the exact device sales. So analysts are trying to estimate shipments of these products, but judging by their estimates of Mac sales in the third quarter, those numbers don't appear to be very accurate.

Organizations like Gartner, IDC, and Canalys don't seem to know exactly how many Macs Apple sold, as their Q3 shipment numbers vary widely.

IDC estimates that Apple sold 10 million Macs in the quarter, up 40.2% from the 7 million units sold in the same quarter last year. However, Gartner sees Apple selling just 5.8 million Macs, down 15.6 percent from 6.9 million a year earlier.

The 4.3 million Mac shipment difference between IDC and Gartner's numbers underscores how unreliable these shipment estimates are. Canalys puts the numbers in the middle of those two estimates, arguing that Apple shipped 8 million Macs last quarter, up 1.7 percent from 7.9 million a year earlier.

There have also been differences between estimates previously provided by IDC, Gartner, and Canalys, but not to this extent. Apple will provide more data on its third calendar quarter (Q4) revenue on its Oct. 27 earnings call, which should give some insight into Mac sales. Apple launched the new M2 MacBook Air and M2 MacBook Pro this quarter, but the new machines are also facing some shipment delays due to supply chain issues.

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