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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, March 20, 2007

Apple Opens Doors by Running Windows ... A Look at Real Numbers

The Wall Street Journal's Nick Wingfield adds to the growing number of tales about Apple's recent successes in the PC market:
The support for Windows on Apple hardware looks to be playing a key role in persuading some users to switch to Macs from Windows PCs, including small businesses, education and other professional markets that have tilted toward Windows for years.

Helping Macs gain a bit of ground within the workplace are a growing array of programs that let the machines run Windows or Windows applications on Macs with little loss of performance. Last April, Apple began offering a free test version of a program called Boot Camp that lets users run Windows on their Macs ... And software from other companies, such as one called Parallels Desktop for Mac, from SWsoft Inc., of Herndon, Va., enables a more convenient scenario: running Mac and Windows on an Apple computer at the same time.

No one believes Microsoft's dominance of the professional market, which includes businesses, education and other nonconsumer fields, is in any imminent jeopardy. Analysts say such organizations, especially big companies, have far too much invested in Windows for Apple to ever win a big share of the market. Apple, tacitly conceding as much, puts more focus on the consumer market, with products like the iPod and forthcoming iPhone.
As is typical, there's no real data in the article. There are two anecdotal stories about a school in Pennsylvania and a TV production company in NYC, followed by some US market share numbers (which are always more positive for Apple because the US is the richest country on earth).

Which reminds me. There's been a lot of talk about Mac market share lately. The most recent worldwide market share numbers, for calendar year 2006, can be computed as follows:

Apple sold 5.655 million Macs in 2006.

PC makers sold 228.6 million (IDC) to 239.4 million PCs (Gartner), for an average of 234 million PCs.

Thus, Apple accounted for 2.41 percent of the market. This is up from Apple's CY2005 market share, which was 2.28 percent.

Some people have taken issue with the use of Gartner and IDC numbers, mostly because they're both estimates, but that's what we have to work with, and these figures are certainly accepted as industry gospel. Yesterday, I cited some DisplaySearch numbers. That company says that PC makers sold 238.7 million PCs in calendar year 2006. If you accept this number as truth (for some reason), Apple's market share in 2006 was 2.36 percent. If you average DisplaySearch's numbers with Gartner's and IDC's, then Apple's 2006 market share is 2.4 percent. Clearly, it's somewhere in that ballpark, regardless of the methodology you prefer.

The next time we can look at accurate market share numbers is April. That's when we'll see the figures for the first quarter of 2007. Looking at supposed monthly market share numbers is pointless, since Apple doesn't release its sales figures on a monthly basis.

And before I get the inevitable rant about these numbers, no, market share is not the be-all or end-all of discussions about the Mac. It is, however, the most accurate thing we can measure. I agree that installed base is as important, and as interesting, but it's not easily measured. And as soon as you get into unverifiable discussions like, "well, Macs tend to stay up and running longer than PCs..." the whole thing just fades into non-scientific opinion. My guess is that the installed base numbers are pretty good for Apple (that is, higher than 2.4 percent, but, say, lower than 5 percent), even more so in the US. But there's no accurate way to gauge that, so my opinion is no more valid than anyone else's. People see what they want to see. What I want to see is hard, cold facts. And unless you can point me at something reasonable, market share is pretty much the only reasonably accurate measurement we can make about PC usage (or, in this case, PC purchasing trends, which is not the same thing at all).

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