For at least a decade, Apple has mostly been the company that makes the iPhone. Obviously, it makes other products, but none of them are the reason Apple is a $2.5 trillion company. The iPhone isn't just Apple's most important product, it's the device all other smartphones are measured against.

Despite that, Apple's biggest hit product right now isn't the iPhone--it's the Mac. You would be forgiven if you didn't see that coming. In some ways, you could argue that the Mac, as it exists today, looks like an overnight success. 

The reason isn't complicated--the new Macs with Apple Silicon are amazing. They're better than really anything else you could spend that much money on. Even the entry-level MacBook Air is probably the best laptop most people should consider buying. It's definitely the best overall value. 

The MacBook Pro, which was released last October, is arguably the biggest hit product Apple has had in a decade. Apple said it set a record for Mac sales, largely driven by the MacBook Pro. That makes sense--Apple basically just gave people exactly what they've been asking for, along with the fastest performance you can buy in a laptop.

Obviously, the Mac didn't just show up overnight. It's been around since 1984. It's just that until about two years ago, a lot of people had started to wonder if Apple cared about the Mac anymore. Even Apple's most loyal fans had plenty to complain about, like stale designs and keyboards that don't work. 

With the exception of one quarter, the Mac had been on a long, slow decline since 2015 until Apple Silicon came along. It's not hard to see why. Apple's laptop line had been a mess. Its desktop lineup up was, well, confusing.

There was the iMac and the Mac mini. Then Apple made a Mac Pro that turned out wasn't very pro, so Apple made an iMac Pro to replace it. Except, people still wanted a Mac Pro, so Apple made a new one of those but kept the iMac Pro around for a few more years. None of them were bad, but they weren't great. 

Then, with the introduction of Apple Silicon, the Mac got good again. And it wasn't just better--that's not a very high bar. I wrote that with the M1 MacBook Air, Apple was just showing off. That's how good it was. Apparently, people noticed, because Apple started selling a lot of Macs.

It's fair to point out that Apple's transition to its own processors coincided with a time when many people were buying laptops. As the pandemic surged during most of 2020, every PC maker experienced a bump in sales. People were staying home, which meant they needed laptops for working or attending school remotely. 

Then, it seemed like people got all the laptops they needed, and sales of most PC makers slowed. Except for Apple--which just kept selling more Macs.

In the most recent quarter, the iPhone grew by 5 percent. On the other hand, the Mac grew almost 15 percent. At the same time, the overall market for personal computers was down almost 7 percent compared with the previous year. 

Even more impressive, Apple said that half of the people who bought a Mac last quarter were "new to the product." That's corporate-speak for "they were buying their first Mac." That's a lot of people ditching their PCs for a Mac. It's almost like Apple flipped a switch and suddenly people noticed how good the Mac was again.

Obviously, Apple had been working on these new Macs for years. Like every apparent overnight success, the truth is that a lot of long hard work went into building the Macs Apple really wanted to make. 

It's been working on its own silicon--in the iPhone and iPad, specifically--since it started designing the A4, which it released in 2010. And, obviously, the Mac itself goes back much further than that. It's gone through a lot in the past 38 years, but I think it's fair to say that it's never been more popular, or more successful, than it is right now.