Monday, January 16, 2006

Just How Many Apple Computer Users Are There: The Definitive Answer On Apple's Market Share

JackLooks is a post of searches that I make on the internet that relate to Macs. I often make interesting searches. Sometimes, the results are hard to sort through. I try to make sense of the searches and then pass my own education along to readers. Enjoy!

Trying to find data regarding Apple's true marketshare is like trying to find a haystack in a needle factory.

It's almost as if it were some political statistic. You never can know the truth or accuracy of any statistic about Apple's marketshare because of several factors:

1) Those bias towards Linux or Windows tend to conduct the surveys about market share.

2) Surveys for Linux market share usually include systems that have Linux installed on them, but are not user operated ... meaning manufacturing machinery and the like.

3) Surveys for Windows usually are for Windows only ... meaning a flavor survey ... Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows XP

4) Surveys for Windows (if they do include other OS's) tend to lump all of them into an "other" category.

5) The Mac OS and Apple market share is very centralized. For instance, my hometown of Greenville SC has a much higher percentage of Macs than Apple's national average and so does a large college town nearby ... however, my state as a whole has a lower than the national average number of Apple Computers.

6) Some of these surveys only count computers that are connected to the internet that use the Internet Explorer browser. While many Mac Users still use Internet Explorer for the Mac ... it is dwindling down to the low double digits.

So, the point behind those bullet points is that it is very hard to pin down any precise numbers.

A good link to analyze monthly market share: <--- For browsers and operating systems.

One of the mistakes that is made when calculating Apple's market share is reading into quarterly market share. On average, Apple has about 5% of the quarterly sales of all computers. Many people would say that 5% is miniscule ... but they fail to realize that car companies like BMW have 5% or less marketshare in the automobile market. Would anyone call BMW a failure with low market share? Market share is rarely a term associated with BMWs.

Many surveys also have cut off points as well ... mostly at 4 years. Meaning ... a survey may be worded like this:

In the last 4 years, have you purchased a computer? If so, continue to question 2.

I have actually taken one of these surveys ... it was worded exactly like this.

Whether you have personally had this experience or not ... Apple Computers just last longer. Apple computers have never really made it into the commodity market either (even with the budget priced Mac Mini). A PC User with a problem requiring a greater than $300 repair will tend to just buy a new computer. Conversely, this threshhold for a Mac user seems to be around $750.

One of the reasons this is so ... is because Mac Users tend to be creative professionals ... they require consistency in their jobs. Upgrading may require one to learn a new operating system (OSX) or learn new software like Photoshop vs Freehand or InDesign vs Quark. For the average Mac user ... the cost of upgrading to the latest, greatest Mac is significantly higher ... requiring thousands of dollars of software purchases as well.

One other reason it's so easy for a Windows user to upgrade their machine with ease is ... Mac users are more honest. The average Windows using customer that comes into my store will often remark ... I'll just use my copy from my old computer, or borrow Office from my friend" My average Mac user, buys the new software and typically buys separate licenses for EACH machine.

Another thing I have found about surveys on market share is that they tend to negate multiple computers in the same household.

The average Mac user retains their older Mac for nostalgia, backup, and even simultaneous use. Whereas, the average Windows user, discards, trades, sells, or donates their computer.

Everything I have told you thus far is my first hand knowlege as I interact with people in my own store and my daily work.

Typing several terms into Google yields a mix of numbers ... most only revealing quarterly sales figures/market share.

The average figure places Apple's current worldwide market share at around 4.5%. I find this statistic highly suspect. I'm not quite sure why Apple doesn't advertise that these statistics are bogus - at least on their website.

Here's an insightful comment made by John Gruber on his site DARING FIREBALL:

Overall PC market share covers large market segments where Apple isn’t competing — including markets where Apple doesn’t want to compete. Fifteen or 20 years ago, personal computers were generally only purchased and used by people who were “into” computers. Today, however, many computers are purchased for use as generic business machines, modern-day typewriters and adding machines.

PCs are used everywhere from telemarketing cubicle farms to supermarket checkout registers. The much ballyhooed “network computer” platform never emerged the way companies like Sun and Oracle had hoped (meaning “no Microsoft”), but very cheap PCs are frequently used as little more than network terminals. And Apple simply doesn’t make machines that would be good choices for extremely low-end tasks.

...The idea of overall PC market share, as currently conceived by IDC, is not so much like overall automobile market share as it is like overall motor vehicle market share. It’s like counting everything from golf carts to tractor trailers as a single category, thus making the “overall market share” look worse than it is for a company that only makes actual passenger cars.

Interestingly, Jack Campbell wrote a piece back in 2002 for SpyMac regarding this topic ... while he was criticized for making up many of the statistics he placed into the article (which has since been removed from the SpyMac site) I have to agree with some of the points he had made there. Here is a discussion thread about his article at MacRumors

He made the assertion that the Apple Computer Installed Base (Apple Computers in use) was probably close to 11%. Since 2002 (when the article was written) Apple has gone from 2.5% quarterly market share to about 4.5% quarterly market share. The sales of computers have gone up significantly as well ... so Apple's gain in marketshare is more significant than the small 2% gain that this increase indicates.

If I were to just guess (educated of course) I would say Apple's installed (and in daily use) base is hovering around 12% of all computers worldwide.

From September of 2004 to September of 2005 Apple sold 4.534 million computers - approximately 100.521 million computers were sold worldwide in this same period.

It is estimated that approximately 40 to 50 million computers are disposed of worldwide each year. (This is inclusive of Apple Computers I believe) - this was a tough statistic to pin down by searching through Google.

I used to buy surplus on a regular basis - the majority of the Macs I bought were recycled and resold. The majority of the PCs I bought were stripped and disposed of - used almost solely for parts. So a disposal figure lumping all computers together may be skewed when you consider Apple computers.

If you would like more information into Apple Market Share ... review Apple's 10k Report. This is a yearly filing Apple has to make concerning its sales to the Securities & Exchange Comission (SEC):

While it does not appear to be so, this is a direct link to the Apple website where the last 6 years of 10k reports can be found:

Each report is linked on this page in the form of a PDF file.

[UPDATE] Interesting side note news coming out today:

As reported by New York Times:

Steve Jobs sent an email message to employees that read, "Team, it turned out that Michael Dell wasn't perfect at predicting the future. Based on today's stock market close, Apple is worth more than Dell. Stocks go up and down, and things may be different tomorrow, but I thought it was worth a moment of reflection today. Steve."

Jobs' email references a statement made by Dell's CEO in 1997. Micheal Dell was asked what he would do to fix Apple, which was financially troubled at the time. He replied "I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

[UPDATE #2] Newsweek is carrying brief tidbits from an interview with Steve Jobs reiterating a 5% quarterly market share

[UPDATE #3] Here's an exhaustive detailed look at Apple Market Share * updated September 20th 2006


Anonymous said...

PC at work (computer network engineer), PowerMac at home... guess which I prefer :-)

Anyway, I just love how people always use BMW as an indication of a low market share being OK. Its NOT so OK in computing!!

As long as BMW is financially viable and keeps parts available, then the customer is fine. The BMW is still compatible with the same roads, tyres and petrol as all the other car manufacturers.

In the computing world, low market share = lower likelihood of s/w companies developing for that OS. This is a viscous cycle where lowering market share leads to fewer apps available, leading to less likelihood of an OS having a 'killer' app or more to the point, some other OS having a killer app that OS X cant run.

Dont get me wrong, I love my Mac to bits and Im very pleased to see that the Mac is slowly gaining market share (both installed base and quarterly shipments). However, I still feel that a comparison of market share between computing and cars is not a valid one.

Anonymous said...

I attempted to make sense of the total count back in August at