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For six years, the Internet Nexus served as my technology blog, but I've since started blogging at the SuperSite Blog instead. If you're looking for the blog, please head there. --Paul

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

About Mac Market Share, Growth, Opinions, and Numbers

People--well, Mac people--often ask me why I focus on market share with the Mac so much. The implicit concern there, of course, is that I'm clearly doing this to make the Mac and/or Apple look bad. After all, the Mac's market share is so small and I'm obviously ignoring the feel-good stories I could be covering instead, like US market share (which is much, much higher than worldwide market share) and growth rates (which, for Apple, are impressive).

Well. The point of this blog isn't to be anti-Apple (or, like most Apple-oriented blogs , super-duper-pro-Apple). I see a lot of craziness online when it comes to Apple coverage, and it's odd to me that so many people simply give Apple a pass when the company or its officials (especially Steve Jobs) break out into FUD or even outright lies, as they so often do. All that said, I'm all about good technology, and that's why Apple and its products are interesting to me. I can't understand why anyone would "love" a company, be it Apple or Microsoft (or Sun, or Ford Motor Company, or any other corporation). These companies exist to make money for their shareholders and if you're getting a warm fuzzy feeling from them, you are simply getting sucked in by marketing and are thus a tool.

Anyway. Here's an example. Macworld UK today published a story with the subtitle "Apple's sales growth continues to exceed industry average." This is absolutely a fact. It is also absolutely pointless, and here's why. When you're market share is so small--2 to 2.5 percent in Apple's case with the Mac--it's easy to post massive growth numbers. (Conversely, when a market is won, growth slows dramatically.) But massive growth doesn't translate into huge market share increases, as I've demonstrated again and again on this very blog. If you had 80 percent market share and somehow grew 70 percent (if such a thing is even possible), you'd probably eliminate all competition. But when you only have 2.2 percent of the market, 70 percent growth doesn't help, especially if the rest of the market "only" grew at 33 percent.

My point here is simple. The Macworld story (and the many stories just like it) misrepresent reality using numbers that are both accurate and true. Let's take a look:
PC shipments in Europe grew 10.4 per cent year on year — but Apple's UK growth exceeded industry averages once again, according to the analysts at IDC.

Overall, PC shipments reached over 24.6 million units in the final quarter of 2006, but Apple's combined desktop and notebook shipments in the UK grew 29.6 per cent.
See how they mix numbers there? Overall PC industry shipments were 24.6 million UNITS, but Apple's GROWTH was 29.6 percent. 29.6 is a bigger number than 24.6, but these numbers measure completely different things. So that's a deception, whether it was purposeful or not. I can't say.
Apple's UK [notebook growth] performance is double that of the industry average — up 59.1 per cent (the total UK notebook market grew 21.5 per cent.) Apple's desktop sales grew 6.5 per cent in the UK, slightly under the prevailing 9.9 per cent industry trend here.
At least there's a little reality at the end:
Despite the positive growth story, Apple continues to account for just 2.1 per cent of the EMEA market.
I think what bugs me is that the positive numbers in this story are widely reported while the "reality"--i.e. that the Mac's market share has not really grown much--is not. So I fill that gap. Not because it's bad news. Because it's the reality. If the reality is positive--such as with my Apple support experience--I'm just as happy to discuss that. For some reason, this makes me a bad guy in certain circles. I don't understand that. But then, I'm not a Kool-Aid-drinking religious fanatic either.

Is the Mac good technology? Yep. Mac OS X? Obviously. Is the Mac's market share share low? Yes. Has it improved in the past year? Yes, but not by much. Does any of this matter? You know, I'm not sure. But obviously, Apple seems to be moving in a different direction these days. You can see that as positive, if you love Apple above the Mac. But if you're a fan of the Mac, as I am, you might be nervous. I'm sure Apple II users felt this way, oh, around 1983. We'll have to wait and see how this shakes out, of course, and history doesn't always repeat itself. For now, all we have are numbers and opinions. The two don't always line up.
[ Posted at 10:28 AM | Permalink ]


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