Mercury News: Low market share is badge of honor for Mac faithful

“Apple is now more successful than ever. Sales and profits are setting records every quarter. New models of Apple’s Macintosh computers appear on magazine covers and make cameo appearances in numerous Hollywood movies and TV shows. Apple’s iPod is bringing new acolytes into the Mac fold,” Mike Langberg writes for The San Jose Mercury News. “Yet despite well-deserved acclaim for design and ease of use, Apple’s share of the worldwide PC market has tumbled from 4.6 percent in 1996, the year before Jobs returned, to just 2.2 percent in 2005. Microsoft’s bland and virus-prone Windows operating system continues to grab more than 90 percent market share… Gartner puts Apple’s 1996 share at 4.6 percent, IDC at 5.1 percent. Market share in 2005 was 2.2 percent from Gartner and 2.3 percent from IDC. According to Gartner, Apple’s market share peaked at 15.8 percent in 1980 — four years before the Mac was introduced.”

“Apple has pursued a deliberate strategy of appealing to a narrow audience of computing enthusiasts. These enthusiasts, the Mac faithful, understand the value of what Apple offers. They are willing to pay more than buyers of what hard-core Macophiles snidely dismiss as ‘Windoze.’ Apple’s main consumer desktop computer, for example, is the new iMac with an Intel processor starting at $1,299,” Langberg writes. “It’s possible to get a Windows desktop computer and monitor for as little as $399, after mailing a bunch of rebate coupons. Such a system offers much less performance and fewer features than the Mac, but it’s good enough for the vast majority of computer users.”

“Apple is thriving by not worrying about being a low-price leader. In comparison, the two biggest manufacturers of Windows PCs — Dell and Hewlett-Packard — do little better than break even at best on PCs they sell to consumers,” Langberg writes. “The Mac’s tiny corner of the market is sufficiently lucrative to support continuing state-of-the-art innovation in the Mac OS X operating system and related software such as iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, Spotlight and Safari.So there’s no immediate reason for Apple or Mac users to fret.”

Langberg writes, “Apple is somewhat stronger in U.S. consumer market share, with Gartner giving Apple 5.8 percent in 2005 and IDC at 2.9 percent [sic]”

MacDailyNews Note: That’s a mistake. IDC pegs Apple at 4.0 percent for 2005 U.S. market share.

Langberg continues, “It’s also worth noting that Apple’s worldwide market share did move up slightly last year from 1.9 percent in 2004, according to Gartner, or 2.0 percent, according to IDC.

“In the dark days before Jobs came back to rescue Apple from heavy losses and listless design, however, Mac believers often felt beleaguered and defensive. But now the clouds have lifted… ‘People don’t look down on you — `You’re still using a Mac?’ — like they did five or six years ago,’ added Steve Bellamy, an advertising agency executive in Menlo Park and president of the Stanford/Palo Alto Macintosh User Group. Leander Kahney, author of the 2004 book ‘The Cult of Mac” and an editor at Wired News in San Francisco who regularly writes about the most devout of Mac true believers, concludes: ‘Mac users are very confident these days. They’re hipper and smugger than ever. Low market share is a badge of honor. It shows exclusivity.'”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s not as much about being hipper and smugger, than it is about being smarter and realizing that life’s too short to waste dealing with mediocrity. Most Mac users don’t care about market share as long as we have enough for developers to keep making and updating Mac software. We’d like to see a bit more share growth, if only to prod some software companies to take a long hard look at Macintosh. It always amazes us that more software developers don’t wonder if they’d rather also sell their wares to people who have the money and the sense and the willingness to buy the best or just keep trying to sell software to people who buy cheap Windows boxes based on sticker price with fists clenched full of rebate coupons. Which user is more likely to pay full retail and who’s more likely to copy (steal) it from their friends or from work?

As we often mention, market share is different than installed base. More people use Macs than you’d think if you just looked at market share numbers alone.

According to US News and World Report, Macintosh owners buy 30% more software than their Windows counterparts. Further, Macintosh software comprises over 18% of all software sold, according to the Software and Information Industry Association. In addition, the Software Publishers Association (SPA) estimates that 16 percent of computer users are on Macs. More here.

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Related articles:
Tech writer: Forget booting Windows on Macs, now is the time for Apple Mac to take back share – March 23, 2006
Analysts: Apple a ‘big mean cash machine,’ expect Mac market share gains – January 20, 2006
IDC: Apple Mac 2005 U.S. market share 4% on 32% growth year over year – January 20, 2006
16-percent of computer users are unaffected by viruses, malware because they use Apple Macs – June 15, 2005
Survey shows Apple Macs owned by nearly 10 percent of US small and medium-sized businesses – February 17, 2005
More people use Apple Macs than you think; 8-12 percent of homes use Macs – March 31, 2004
10 percent of computer users use a Mac; 3 percent is Mac’s approximate quarterly market share – February 10, 2004
Syracuse Post-Standard: 3 percent is a false stat; Mac holds ’10 to 12 percent of the market for PCs – August 27, 2003


  1. The MS Windows OS makes it difficult for a PC vendor to differentiate themselves in a sea of low cost problematic hardware with razor thin margins.

    Mac OS-X is the crown jewel center piece for Apple which lets the company BE DIFFERENT from all the generic junk.

    Too bad that all the other brands can’t innovate, they simply repackage the sloppy work of others.

    In years gone by HP was a great innovative company, it is really sad that they’ve been sucked into following along behind MS and competing with junk from Dell.

  2. “‘People don’t look down on you — `You’re still using a Mac?’ — like they did five or six years ago,’ “

    No people still say this because they are ignorant. Truth be told, if you ask those same people what THEY use, they often can’t even give you the right answer yet they question what you are using.

    What kind of computer do you use?

    “We use IBM”

    Oh so what kind of computer is it?

    “It’s a Dell”

    What operating system do you use?


    Yeah, you don’t think that is the truth? I know it is.

  3. “… the only way for Mac OS X to gain significant market share is for it to be licensed out. Apple alone cannot supply more than a few per cent of the market …”

    While I agree that tightly controlled licensing might be the best way forward, I don’t think that it’s necessarily impossible for Apple to supply a much greater percentage of the market.

    The components within Macs are similar to those in PCs. Apple gets Macs manufactured by sub-contracting far east production lines, just like the others do.

    So obviously there are quality control and support considerations, but as far as manufacturing is concerned, it’s essentially a matter of re-negotiating component supply and assembly arrangements, to get Macs built in larger numbers.

  4. Apple users also enjoy passing on things they love to others so that they can enjoy them, too. On the flipside, I have never, in the 10 years I’ve been using a computer, had anyone discuss a Windows-based computer with me, except to say, “Well, this one’s cheaper….” Gee, thanks for the advice.

  5. “… the only way for Mac OS X to gain significant market share is for it to be licensed out. Apple alone cannot supply more than a few per cent of the market …”

    Mac OS X will never be licensed out.

    1: Apple is a hardware company

    2: If M$ did license Mac OS X, it wouldn’t be for long, perhaps just long enough to fix their OS.

    Microsoft is about power and control.

  6. But please explain the “many exploits” to which you and other Mac users have been subjected.

    And still there is no 100% fix for the meta file exploit.

    Until last week, websites had the ability to run code on our Mac’s just by visiting them. It wasn’t root code, but a “sit and wait for root” trojan could have been installed in about a two seconds.

    If you come up with a valid number that is greater than zero, then please contrast that number to the experience of Windows users in a meaningful way (for example, number of successful exploits divided by the estimated number of users of that platform in CY05). You may end up feeling just a little more secure.

    Not really, lets face it. Trying to decide which OS is more secure is like trying to decide which woman of two is more the virgin by how many times she had sex.

    Both operating systems are now continously insecure.

  7. MDN,

    Life may be too short to deal with mediocrity, but it’s never to short to hammer, criticize or flame a “Doze” user. Or to fill a journalist’s mailbox to overflow when they write something about our platform.

    I think that is what the writer refers to. Windows users don’t tend to do this, they don’t care what you say about M$. Well, apart from a couple 12 year old fanboys.

    I hate that we act like those 12 year olds.

    MW/single- It seems like every single one of us does this.

  8. “If M$ did license Mac OS X…”

    Microsoft would never be offered the opportunity to license OS X. Their only hope is to make a better job of copying it.

    If Vista turns into a total wreck and OS X is the only realistic way forward for PCs, then Apple might license OS X to some hardware manufacturers to run on very tightly specified hardware, instead of using Windows.

    There would be no point in offering Microsoft a life-line if Apple could simply grab their customers instead.

  9. BTW, just picked up my Vaio, and it’s fuckin SWEET! It’s got the latest Windows XP SP2, and even defaults to the Silver theme. Slick.

    That’s what I like about the PC world versus the Apple world. In the PC world, you get choice. Dell, Sony, Acer, HP, Gateway, Lenovo, eMachines… and that’s just off the top of my head. Add to that the fact that Windows XP comes in Blue, Silver or Olive Green, and that’s 21 possible configurations!

    I’ve come to realize that Apple users don’t even know what “choice” is.

  10. Apple is doing what they should by trying to understand what their current and potential customers want. Commodity breeds mediocrety, and Apple would be so foolish if they went down that path. Some complain that the Apple universe is closed, but some control is exactly what keeps it stable, focused, evolving, goal driven, and compatible. MS Vista is collapsing from it’s own weight: it’s weight of backwards compatibility, it weight of putting in the kitchen sink in hopes that something will stick, and it’s weight of bloated inefficiency and burracracy. (sorry for the mispellings).

  11. What I like about my Mac — I don’t need to have a computer guru take up residence inside my apartment.

    I’ve gone from OS 9 to 9.2.2 to Jaguar to Panther to Tiger, and never had to have anyone help me (other than a firmware update on my clamshell iBook, and that’s because I didn’t have my own Internet connection at the time — they did it free of charge at the local Apple Store). I went from dial-up Internet to broadband to WiFi all by myself — with WiFi it only took 15 minutes and would’ve been 10 if I hadn’t spent 5 minutes swearing and realized that I needed to reset the cable modem to get it to work. My Brother laser printer is operating on the WiFi network; I can print from both the Intel iMac and my G4 iBook. I shudder to think how many man-hours (and man-dollars) my father-in-law would have to spend to have his support person do all that with his Dell.

    Oh, and before anyone thinks I’m some sort of 20-year-old computer whiz, I’m a 47-year-old suburban housewife, with a bit of a knack for computers but not an engineer by any means…maybe Apple should feature me in some ads about how easy the Mac is for the average person…

  12. Langberg continues, “It’s also worth noting that Apple’s worldwide market share did move up slightly last year from 1.9 percent in 2004, according to Gartner, or 2.0 percent, according to IDC.

    ..sorry i don’t think comparisions year to year using different sources, is a valid way to make a point. No matter how much you might like the result.

    MW design. How cool is that???

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