Reading the papers might have given you the impression that Apple is a strong contender, with a solid operating system, fabulous products, and booming sales.

Sadly, the business news is frequently reported with the same quest for sensationalism and lack of objectivity that has poisoned political reporting. Nothing has changed for Apple. It makes products that are buggier than you think, and it sells them to a vanishingly small number of people.

Apple introduced its peculiar iMacs last year, spiffed them up this year, got rapturous press coverage – but nobody is actually buying them. Macintosh shipments were down 14% in the last quarter compared to the prior year. Apple sold only 113,000 of the flat-panel iMacs last quarter, and only managed to move 280,000 copies of its new operating system to the estimated 25 million Mac users out there.

Make no mistake: those are really, really small numbers. Apple lost money last quarter, and expects only a “modest improvement” in the Xmas buying season. Here’s an article that goes over the financial numbers released by Apple yesterday.

The hype is so insistent that people ask me all the time about buying Macs. But nothing has changed. They continue to occupy a little tiny niche, for people who don’t mind spending too much money to satisfy a religious conviction. Listen to the hype with cynical amusement, but don’t take it seriously.

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