09 July 2012

asymco: “Building and dismantling the Windows advantage”

Although PC volumes continued to grow, they did so more slowly and the Mac grew faster. What coincided with this was the emergence of portable computing. The MacBook became easily differentiable as a “better” laptop. It was not faster, did not have more storage or any key metrics being used to sell PCs. It was just better as an integrated product. The integration manifested itself through a sense of quality and robustness as well as intangibles like aesthetics and “feel”. I wrote about this a few years ago. Horace Dediu

Another article that made some waves recently on the Internet. I find it questionable, to say the least. First of all there’s no mention of the data sources used or the geographical area: it this the US? The World? Silicon Valley? Absolutely no indication in the body of the article. I found a partial clarification later on Twitter, but I still don’t understand why this wasn’t included in the original text.

I also think the explanation for the trend is only part of the story, at best. When looking at sales numbers for different products you should consider the update cycle and how many of those are replacement sales. For example if one product is used for 5 years it will generate fewer sales than one replaced every 3 years. I don’t have any numbers on this, but I would venture to guess that PC’s end up being used for longer periods than Macs; they are more easily upgraded or repaired, so there’s less incentive to buy a new device. System requirements for new Windows OS and productivity suites have also been stagnating for years, another reason not to buy a new PC. On the other hand, after 2004 Apple released Tiger and migrated to Intel processors – suddenly old Macs were obsolete and people needed to buy new machines in order to update the operating system.

The same points apply to smartphones and tablets: they’re harder to repair than to replace (I hear on some models you cannot even change the battery. Crazy!…) so they will naturally generate more sales. They are also a new booming market and, no matter what some like to think, they are still no PC replacement. Most people likely own both a computer and a smartphone/tablet. So any sales comparison between PCs and mobile devices should be taken with a grain of salt.

Multiple of PCs sold vs. Macs

Here’s another chart from StatCounter, showing the evolution of desktop operating systems for the United States. It doesn’t go that far back, but the overall trend for Mac OS X is by no means a clear and steady rise. In the last three quarters it’s actually declining. The truth is sales don’t translate that well into actual market share. The situation is akin to browser makers touting the download numbers for their new releases, when the respective market share is basically unchanged.

Top 7 Desktop, Tablet & Console OSs in the US from Q3 2008 to Q3 2012
Source: StatCounter Global Stats - OS Market Share

But hey, it’s easier to go “Apple’s hot, Microsoft’s not” than to do some critical reasoning.

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