New York Times claims ‘less than 1 percent’ of US home computers can use iTunes Music Store (UPDATED

“As Microsoft has been cast in the role of Goliath in the personal computing wars, Macintosh has been playing David. And right now the stone in its slingshot is music. Not only is the iPod the top digital music player in the field, but earlier this year Apple’s iTunes Music Store became the first legitimate music downloading service viewed as a success in the business, with one million songs downloaded (at 99 cents each) in its first week. The figure is impressive considering that less than 1 percent of the country’s home computers are Macintoshs that are compatible with the iTunes Music Store,” reports Neil Strauss for The New York Times here.

“less than 1 percent of the country’s home computers are Macintoshs that are compatible with the iTunes Music Store?” Okay, let’s look at some facts:

– “Apple currently has 7 million active Mac OS X users,” Apple CFO Fred Anderson, September 3, 2003. (Attribution MacNN)
– iTunes 4 with the iTunes Music Store requires: Mac OS X version 10.1.5 according to Apple.

Let’s be severe and say that only 5 million of the 7 million active Mac OS X users are using Mac OS X 10.1.5 or greater (even though Anderson stated that of the 7 million, “a substantial number are using Jaguar” which is Mac OS X 10.2 or greater). 1 percent = 5 million, so is Strauss reporting that there are 500 million “home computers” in the U.S.? According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the United States, projected to 9/6/2003 at 10:32 PM EDT is 292 million people.

Is Strauss saying that, on average, every single person in the United States of America (including newborns, toddlers, the elderly, etc.) owns 1.7 home computers? Does Strauss have data to back up his claim that “less than 1 percent of the country’s home computers are Macintoshes that are compatible with the iTunes Music Store?” Or is The New York Times’ Strauss just making up that percentage?

UPDATE 9/7, 9:04 AM EDT: It is true, MacDailyNews erred here, forgetting that Anderson’s stated “7 million active Mac OS X users” would be spread around the globe; but still concentrated in the U.S. Still, even with some error-correction, is Strauss’ “less than 1 percent” correct? The last U.S. Census information states, as “Seahawk” pointed out below, that “54 million households, or 51 percent, had one or more computers in the home in August 2000 – source. It is now three years later, during which we endured quite a stagnant period for personal computer sales worldwide and in the U.S.

We still have no idea if Strauss has data that backs up his claim, but he should have explained how he arrived at the quote of “less than 1 percent.” From the data we have and estimates we all can make for ourselves, “less than 1 percent of the country’s home computers are Macintoshes that are compatible with the iTunes Music Store” still seems too low to us. The New York Times writer does not include a source or sources; we believe he should have, instead of just throwing it out there as fact. Does anyone have better data? If so, please let us know below.

49 Comments

  1. When Fred Anderson quoted 7 million OS X users, was that globally or domestically? I’m really not certain.

    But 1% of US home computers being accessible to iTMS sounds like it could possibly be true.

  2. Your reporter doesn’t seem to realize that some of us live outside the United States. A good percentage of us Mac users are in fact, not in the United States. If you factor us into the 7 million, then the NYT figures do make sense.

  3. MDN, maybe if you took the blinkers off for a moment, you’d realise that there are quite a few people that live outside of the USA, and quite a few of them use OS X. Just b/c you don’t like the figures in a newspaper piece, don’t jump to conclusions about statistics and Strauss being wrong.

  4. Even if you were to cut the figure MDN uses here in half (2.5 million Macs in the US) it still seems highly farfetched, given the math involved. And once again, I’d wish reporters like Mr. Strauss would provide in their stories about Macs (or pcs for that matter) a little more background into where or how or through what method they obtain such figures. I hardly think revealing that source could endanger Strauss’s life (or anyone else’s life either).

    Here’s the real kicker, though – this fact-suspect story goes on to say that Apple “largely ignores independents”, without mentioning the inroads that Apple has been making lately to add independent labels to their catalog of available songs. And that the cost of an album “isn’t that much more than a CD”. Huh? Most CDs of new music still go for $15-$18 despite one label’s recent attempt to reduce that high, unrealistic price. And most albums available on iTMS are based on how many songs are on the album at .99 each, aren’t they?

    There’s an Apple Store right there in Manhattan – Mr. Strauss could have gotten the answers (and better information for your story) right there. For shame.

  5. C’mon guys, pundits use staticstical figures as if they were randomnly thrown out on the table.

    Now, granted, not all Mac users are in the US but the census of computers in the world gives Apple some 11~12%

    Now are you all telling that there are Mac users in the rest of the world – sure – AND that they greatly outnumber US market?
    So what do we have from that 11~12% worldwide Mac presence? – alsdo confirmed by figures of c=platforms on the net -.

    Does Apple sell more Macs overseas? Do the US sport the majority of computers in the world? Since those two facts don’t hold true I don’t see how Mac presence in the US could possibly be less than 1% .

  6. Oops wait, I see it now: 1% of iTMS compatible in the US. Still, I’d like to see the figures. OS X 7 millions (worldwide?!), say 3 millions in the US – is that reasonable? Now, there are NOT 30 millions Mac in the US as there are NOT 300 millions computers in the US (240 in the world).

    Hence shouldn’t 3 millions OS X in the US count for more than “less than 1%” ?!

  7. Found lots of info on census.gov

    From last census apparently 54 millions households in the US have a computer at home.
    Let’s be generous: 2 computers on average per household. Say 100 millions home computers in the US ?!

    Less than 1% would be less than 1 million OS X (iTMS compatible) running in the US? Does it sound right? and more than 6 million OS X worldwide (if Apple’s 7 millions OS X is correct).

    OK, just a Sunday morning leisure time while daughter watches Lion King ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    I personally do not care much: even if true, the amount of music bought via iTMS is even more phenomenal!!! Imagine the revenues for Apple (and its stock value) when the 99% remaining US home computers start buying from iTMS ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  8. The figures of Strauss are probably wrong, but so are the guestimations provided here.

    Getting one Apple statement that probably is somewhat correct and then guessing the amount of those that can be found in the US, amount that fullfills the iTunes4 requirements (there are other requirements than just the OS) and finally guessing the amount of those remaining computers that are used at home.

    It is unfortunate that there are no real figures available but guessing does not usually give us good data, at least I would not rely on data that is produced by guessing.

  9. As Seahawk clearly points out, the numbers are just wrong, regardless of the MDN numbers. Far more than 1% of the US home computing population uses OS X.

    But the NY Times article is a compliment to Apple, not a critcism. In the context of this article, the “less than 1%” is supposed to impress upon the reader just how great the iTMS service is that it is so successful even with such a small audience. In this, they are correct, even if the “less than 1%” is an exaggeration.

    MDN is right to point out this clear bit of uninformed misinformation – even if their numbers leave out the critical non-American bunch of users. But MDN didn’t have to supply numbers. The “less than 1%” statement is obviously incorrect – just as the 3% number is every time we hear that. Unfortunately, today’s journalistic standards accept these kind of unquestioned statistics. I liken it to article after article stating that smoking bans in restaurants and bars hurt business – when real-world experience is exactly the opposite.

  10. What is wrong with you people at MDN? The New York Times just writes and extremely favorable article about Apple and iTunes and you attack them because they probably reported the truth about market share? It’s shrilling whining like this that sadly makes me embarassed to admit my Mac fanaticism. They used the 1% figure to dramatize how successful Apple really is and how superior their products asn services are, yet you are still not happy…only because you apprently don’t know how to use a calculator. When will you be happy?

  11. This all shows the futility of “market share.” Nobody really knows anything except that the iTMS is successful beyond expectations. 1% of 100 is 1. 1% of 3 million is 30,000. What matters is 1% of how many?

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