Apple’s iPad has an installed base of over 300 million, far larger than the Mac’s user base

“The iPad has an installed base of over 300 million. This is a far larger audience than that of the Mac (which has somewhere between 100 million and 150 million),” Horace Dediu writes for Asymco. “And whereas the iPad acquired this audience in about 7 years, the Mac took 33 years.”

“Taking into account that the iPad has a large, stable, engaged and loyal user base that continues to expand and find new uses, the optically bad sales data needs an explanation,” Dediu writes. “The simplest explanation is probably the best: iPads remain in use far longer than phones, and perhaps even longer than some computers.”

“Anecdotally we can see evidence for this. Few iPads are replaced every two years the way phones are. They are not tied to service contracts or subsidized,” Dediu writes. “Perhaps the iPad will not return to rapid growth, or perhaps it will. But the more likely possibility is that the iPad will level out maintaining steady levels and, perhaps, grow slightly. This flat rather than up/down trajectory is unusual in devices but it isn’t when you look at the Mac. And isn’t the goal of the iPad to become a computer? If so then perhaps Mission Accomplished.”

Read more, and see the usual excellent graph, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As as we wrote back in February 2016:

Here’s the thing: The iPad saturated its addressable market so quickly and the iPads are so well made and last so damn long that unless Apple provides a really compelling reason to upgrade, most people are just not upgrading yet. We handed off our original iPads to relatives a couple years ago and they’re still being used! Yes, they lack sensors to support many modern iPad games, but they are still in use. We also have immediate family members still using perfectly working iPad 2, iPad 3, and older iPad Air and mini models. The obsolescence cycle for iPad rivals that of the Mac. It’s very long.

The iPad is not a niche product. It had unprecedented uptake and the devices have such long, useful lives that the replacement cycle still hasn’t really kicked in. When it does — and when the macroeconomy improves to the point where users can consider adding the joys of iPad to their computing lives — then we’ll see iPad unit sales growth again. In the meantime, Apple should redouble their efforts at improving iPad – adding Apple Pencil, Smart Connector, and multi-user support (to mention just three things) — that will make the iPad even more appealing to buyers.

New Mac desktops coming soon – or never? – March 24, 2017
Apple unveils new 9.7-inch iPad starting at new low price of just $329 – March 21, 2017
Apple to reveal all-new 10.5-inch iPad Pro in early April event at new Steve Jobs Theater, sources say – March 14, 2017
Apple’s all-new 10.5-inch iPad Pro to feature 2,024-by-1,668 display; same physical size as current 9.7 inch iPad Pro – February 27, 2017
Why a 10.5-inch iPad makes mathematical sense – January 12, 2017
Ming-Chi Kuo: Three new Apple iPads on the way, including new model with 10-10.5-inch display – January 9, 2017


  1. “The iPad has an installed base of over 300 million. This is a far larger audience than that of the Mac (which has somewhere between 100 million and 150 million)”.

    However, the pre tax profit on a higher end Mac Pro is more than the full selling price of most, if not all, of the iPads.

    Dediu throwing out nonsense statistics does nothing for him or is premise. He takes a cheap shot at the Mac installed base to try to prop up his rationale for iPad sales now and going forward.

    The real bottom line is that Apple has come out with NOTHING (yes, absolutely NOTHING) that is compelling enough in either the iPad or the Mac lines to get a significant fraction of the installed base or new users to get new iPads or Macs.

    Items get marginally better (or in rare cases as with the new iPad, actually worse with a lower price tag) so there is a low level of ongoing sales, but there are no new items that people say, “That is much, much better than my current iPad or current Mac. I need to upgrade to get that new functionality!”

    1. I can’t help but agree. Apple doesn’t get to dictate to me how I best do my work or what productive work should look like. It’s just getting silly. So much for the kool-aid, eh?

  2. When a manufacturer delivers a new product that compels satisfied current owners to upgrade, the owner upgrades.

    When a manufacturer repeatedly delivers product updates which fail to compel the current owners, the owners don’t upgrade.

    That’s it from the field, back to you in the booth Tim.

  3. Perhaps, but what is that user base doing with their iPads? A generic number is representative of absolutely nothing. Conversely, what is the user base of Mac users doing with their Macs? I’ve said it before, but I think it’s about points of access. If modern mobile devices had existed in the 90s, the PC industry likely wouldn’t have grown like it did even way back then as the ‘average user’ would not have required a PC (or web TV, or any other cumbersome and to them, arcane device) to access the web. This sort of thing really requires context. Most people are not tech savvy, never have been, it was artificial inflation based on necessity. If the option to not use a PC had been available 20 years ago, most people would have gone that way, and in my opinion, that’s just that.

  4. I like Horace Dediu , he’s one of the more interesting analysts often using maths.

    Still in for this particular article from him I would like to add a few notes:

    1) The Mac makes more sales revenue. Last quarter Macs made $7 billion vs 5 billion iPad. That is with incredible neglect from Apple, slow or no updates (the Mac Pro is from 2013 with no drop in price) and practically no advertising. There is ONE ad — the bulb ad — for the period of SEVERAL YEARS, not even cheap web ads etc.

    btw Macs also make a lot more than all the ‘other products’ category items : Beats, Apple TV, Watch, accessories , iPod etc COMBINED.

    2) Installed base is important for services revenue though, so dropping the price of the newest iPad might be a good move to keep numbers up.

    Still IF they had kept up the Mac and Mac App store , the profits on them (Mac software is usually more expensive) the services rev. there might have been significant too. The Mac App store was a disaster, after numerous developer complaints Cue I believe was moved from it and Schiller took over a while back.

    3) If Dediu is right that iPad is 85% of higher end tablets and Macs from ( other polls) dropping to 7% it would seem that there is MORE POTENTIAL in pushing Mac sales. (like you can double Mac sales but not iPad and Macs already make more money)

    4) In some areas like the Education market where the customers said they needed specific ‘laptop’ like needs like attached keyboards , the iPad push and lack of appropriate ‘education Mac’ (or similar, perhaps a cheaper modified OSX ‘A’ processor laptop) has been a disaster. Apple from a strong position in Education has dwindled to a footnote with 10% of less marketshare with Chromebooks form zero to 50-60% and surface books gaining.

    (note my suggestion for a ‘cheaper’ modified OSX Education laptop is so that it won’t cannibalize normal Mac sales. It doesn’t need to be as cheap as Chromebooks but cheaper than the current high Mac prices )

    I wish Dediu would address Apple’s treatment of the Mac in another article (if he has already done so I must have missed it).

    1. Please note that PCs are not dead,

      from Nov 2016 Stat Counter stats users accessed the web from:
      tablets and Phones had 51.3 %
      PCs made up the rest. (i.e near 50% as well)

      You see there is a MYTH that “the vast majority of people use their phones as COMPUTING device with PCs now a tiny niche number “. yeah many people have phones but they don’t use them as much as people think to do stuff like surf the web, much less do work like spreadsheets etc .

      So there is still a place for PCs.

      Also Msft. blundering around has moved 300-400 million Win 10 licenses and say they are aiming for 1 billion.

      there is still plenty of life left for Macs.

    2. I have long appreciated your advocacy of the Mac, we need more voices like yours.

      I like what Tim Cook has done during his tenure as CEO to vault Apple into the competitive stratosphere, but it is clear that they have been lagging in key areas, especially the one you and I love — desktop Macs. I have done all I can, writing directly to them, and posting in places like MDN to rally the troops. But they seem oblivious to our entreaties, as if our cries of anguish arose from babes in a cradle in the next room, to be tuned out until a nursemaid rushed to attend them—or smother them—anything to shut them up.

      This is hardly an existential crisis for people like me who routinely work with a variety of operating systems. But I like to think that Apple, who pretend to be the best, are as good as their word, and will deliver amazing upgrades. If only they would show some sign of snapping out of their trance, or coma, or whatever disease has made them look like zombies recently.

  5. That’s true. They also don’t take into account that for many younger people, their phone or tablet is their first computing device. When they move onto the world of real work, they no longer fully suffice. I’m open to the evolution of platforms, but no one seems to be capable of applying perspective or seeing the bigger picture anymore these days. If I had to do my work exclusively on my phone I’d hang myself. 😉

    1. Another argument for why Chromebooks are the better and more affordable option for the education market now vs iPads for the students’ work future?

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