July 17, 2009, 2:36 PM — Fun fact! Most computer vendors gladly hand out their sales numbers to analyst firms so that analyst firms can release important reports about which computer vendors are hot and which are not. But guess which company doesn't play along? Why, our beloved "culture of secrecy" Apple, of course! Apple only makes those numbers public during its earnings calls. But those big analyst firms have to include Apple in their own estimate reports, because can't leave a high-profile vendor out, so they tend to make things up! OK, that's not quite fair -- they do real legwork, tracking down numbers from resellers and people in the supply chain and the like. But different analysts can still come up with wildly different figures.
Take this last quarter, for example. If you believe Gartner, Apple's Q2 '09 PC sales were actually up a smidge over Q2 '08, by about 2.5 percent. IDC, on the other hand, has those numbers dropping by about 12 percent. Now, I am not anywhere near smart or informed enough to guess which of these estimates is more accurate. What's more interesting to me is how the mixed messages are framed. That Ars story I just linked to has the reasonable headline "Apple market share up or down, depending on who you ask"; Computerworld's Gregg Keizer just threw up his hands and declared "Analysts pull Mac sales numbers out of a hat."
Other outlets were not so circumspect, though. "Apple tanks in the PC market" shouts The Inquirer. eWeek adds another tired meme to the pile, declaring "Apple's Lack of a Netbook Slowing Sales, Reports Indicate." InformationWeek says that "Apple Shows Weakness In PC Market" -- even though this is the article where I first learned that these numbers are estimates, and at a variance with each other at that. (Of course, that's seven paragraphs in.) So here's the question to everyone who thinks the media is in the throes of a great love affair with Cupertino: why are they so excited when the numbers slip?