Does Apple’s market share really matter?

Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier’s Special Report for NewsFactor Network looks at Apple’s place in the personal computer and consumer entertainment industries. Brockmeier writes, “By most accounts, Mac OS X has a slicker and friendlier GUI than Windows, Apple’s hardware is much sexier, and the company has been pushing hard with its Switch campaign. But Apple still is not gaining significant ground against Microsoft — a benchmark that some see as the only one that counts. What will it take to put the company at the top of the tech heap? Is that even a possibility at this point and, more importantly, does it matter?”

“Many think that measuring market share is the wrong way to look at Apple’s performance. For one thing, the bar keeps getting higher every year. While Apple adds new users to its customer base, the overall PC market is growing at the same time. Adam Engst, publisher of the TidBITS Mac community newsletter, noted, ‘Apple’s market share could be dropping while their user base could be doubling…. Market share has become an increasingly uninteresting way of looking at the place of these companies in the world,'” reports Brockmeier.

Brockmeier writes, “It is also difficult to put a finger on exactly how many users Apple has. In January, the company released figures showing there were approximately 5 million active users of OS X — a drop in the bucket compared with the number of Windows users, but hardly a number to sneeze at. Also, there is no telling how many people are still using old Macs with an older version of Mac OS, especially since Engst said users may hold on to Apple machines for a relatively long time. ‘What ends up being weird for the Mac [is that] older machines hold their value much longer … five to seven years, [which is] highly unlikely with a PC,’ he told NewsFactor.”

Brockmeier explores Apple iTunes strategy, the server market, and whether market share really even matters. Full article here.


  1. There’s another major flaw when computing Apple’s marketshare as opposed to MS…

    You have to buy a new Mac to get OS X. Microsoft doesn’t make computers, they make software. If OS X were to be ported to PC’s, it’d obviously make a significant impact and this 2%-5% would be a thing of the past.

    But is that really necessary? A few years ago, the younger generations were still trying to convince the older generations just how important computers are. Older people (like my father) swore they’d never need these confounded machines, and now people like him are tooling around learning new stuff every day on Windows boxes.

    Now we are trying to convince them how important GOOD computers and OS’s are. It’ll take time, so be patient. I’ve been chiseling away at the old man for a few months now to get an iBook when he needs a new laptop for work. He’s really been sucked in by playing with the iTunes Music Store on my TiBook, and also is really getting turned on by the ease of use the OS offers. His biggest concerns are still ridiculous things like “what if my e-mail doesn’t work” and “I can’t get excel on a Mac”… things I’m educating him on.

    So the solution is take some time and go with someone you know looking to buy a new computer to an Apple Store if possible. Let them test drive a mac. It’ll make a big difference.

  2. I agree with the author. Apple’s “market share” is usually based upon percentage of current sales. It is often unclear if they are referring to OS software, all software, or hardware sales. In short, I never believe those numbers.

    With Apple computers lasting much longer (I can personally attest to that – regardless of the claims that Apples are not “expandable”), their percentage of sales is not at all reflective of their actual user base.

    Another non-scientific observation is that I see many more Macs, of all makes and models, in the background of people being interviewed on TV on nonrelated topics. For example, I have seen them in the background of people redecorating their room, being interviewed by Oprah about raising children, or by morning news shows interviewing families of soldiers. They’re everywhere!!

    I would be much more interested in a poll indicating which OS is being used and WHERE. I believe that Macs have at least 25% of the home market where there is no stubborn IT department pushing newer Dells instead of Macs for fear of losing their jobs.

  3. Older machines may *currently* be holding their value longer than PCs, but one of the major reasons for this is that the performance delta between a current machine and an older machine isn’t that large, particularly compared to a PC, running different OSes. That is, a PowerMac beige Desktop G3 still runs OS 8.x or OS 9 reasonably well for standard productivity apps (NOT graphics, video, music), and the entire system works relatively well. On the other hand, a PC with a Pentium II 233MHz CPU really won’t do well running Win2K or WinXP, which means the OS will wind up being Win98SE at best. Win98SE performs fairly well on such a machine, but the OS itself isn’t as stable, in my experience, as MacOS 8.1, say. Yet the cost of upgrading a PC to a reasonable set of hardware (256MB RAM, 40GB HD, Athlon XP 2000+, decent video card) is MUCH cheaper than upgrading, I mean buying, a Mac. Especially considering older Macs used really good hardware — SCSI everywhere — that contributed a great deal to evening out the performance delta.

    When Apple moves to the PPC970, this figure may well change. If IBM is as aggressive in ramping up the 970’s clock speed and introducing the 980 as they seem to be, then performance deltas will grow much faster than they used to do. Which means that Apple will be doing lots more little speed bumps (and price drops) than they used to do, while reserving major add-on feature introductions (such as the goodies that accompanied the 12″ and 17″ introduction — FW800, BlueTooth, Airport Extreme) for the larger shows, maybe once or twice a year at most.

  4. On LiveJournal recently, a friend asked if she should Switch. To my surprise, she was immediately answered by 12 people that she should (ie. people who own Macs.) I had no idea that many of these people, some of whom I know, owned a Mac. I am becoming to believe that there are many more Mac owners than the numbers suggest.

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