Mac Market Share


Good article here:

Your neighbor drives home with his new BMW and the first thing you say to him is a wisecrack about his car’s low market share.

You’d never do it. Nobody would. Most people drive Toyotas or Hondas or Fords, but that means nothing to the people who own BMWs. Right?

Then why are we constantly hearing about the Mac’s low market share from people who ought to know better? I spent an evening checking out the actual percentage of Mac users, and I found numbers that ranged from 1.7 percent to 12 percent. That’s a huge range, and the imprecision of the numbers tells a story.

The article makes a very good point about comparing apples and oranges.

Apple’s global share in the market for new computers hit a low of 1.7 percent in 2003. The 2004 numbers are likely to be a little better, but not much.

Yet my own rough calculations indicate that 8 percent of the personal computers used today in homes – leaving out all the computers used in offices and businesses – are Apple Macintoshes. Others have said my number is conservative; I’ve seen the total for Macs in home use as high as 12 percent.

How can we have 1.7 percent in one case and 8 percent to 12 percent in another? It’s simple: People who represent the Windows side of the computer industry look out one door and Mac fans look out another.

For example, the 2003 figure of 1.7 percent counts only the number of new computers sold month by month. It does not count the number of computers that are in use. You don’t have to be a genius to realize the fallacy of this sort of statistic. Macs last longer than Windows PCs and don’t need replacing as often. So Mac users aren’t ever going to buy new computers at the same rate as Windows users.

If you and I both sell our own widgets but yours last five times as long as mine, I’d have to sell five times as many as you do just to keep the same market share.

The figure of 8 percent is more honest. It represents the number of Macintosh computers currently in use.

My mom still uses her old Mac Performa she bought in 1994. It runs Mac OS 8 and works just fine.

About the author

Erick Erickson


  • Of course, viri, system patches, misleading tech specs, and inferior yardsale-priced hardware deals would have nothing to do with PC users’s strong incentive to upgrade and/or replace their rigs.
    The vast majority of PC users will rarely if ever upgrade their machines by actually, physically, opening up the case and slotting in another Gig of RAM. A sizable majority never upgrade at all after purchase. I am highly skeptical that the purported ease and inexpensiveness of PC upgrade cycles has anything to do with their brevity of use.
    In adition, new PCs are often only significantly cheaper, feature for feature, than Macs when you order or put together custom-built rigs, often from second-hand parts. This is, indeed, not really an option available at all for Mac purchasers, but equally only a tiny fraction of PC users will have the (admittedly minimal) know-how neccesary to avail of it.
    I think Macs stay in use longer because they stay usable longer for the same price. And the reduced cost of ownership soon offsets any difference in cost of purchase.

  • Macs do not outlast pc’s. They are not made of some super plastic unknown to the pc world. PC users “upgrade” and add to their boxes more often simply because there is more choice and the price of upgrading is significantly lower. I have a working PC in my network that “works fine” dating from 1990. I also have a “personal computer” from 1982 that “works fine”. It will probably work until long after you and I are dead.

By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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