Excluding Enterprise, What's the Mac's Market Share?
July 22, 2008 11:15 AM   Subscribe

When people are spending their own money, what percentage buy macs?

There's never a mystery as to Apple's share of the personal computer market…it seemed to bottom out at about 3 percent of the market early in this decade, and by most accounts has since risen to the high single digits, usually reported as about 8 percent (and growing) at the present. However, when I see people using laptops in public (say, at coffee shops or airports), the percentage of macs seems to be significantly higher, about one in three or four. Also, the mac's presence in the online community just seems to be significantly higher than one in ten, based on the volume of mac questions, software discussions, anticipated hardware releases, etc.

Trying to reconcile these seeming contradictions led me to a eureka moment: when mac vs. pc market share is published, it's usually in the form of total system sales. Of course, sales of PC's include the thousands and thousands of cheap desktops and dumb terminals that inhabit the world's cubicle farms, call centers, and data processing hubs, while institutional sales account for a much smaller percentage of the total mac output, probably confined mostly to schools.

Googling for info on sales to individuals turns up very little; the best I could come up with is this article from CNET News which seems to indicate that, as of last December, about 3 out of 10 people anticipated that their next computer purchace would be a mac (surprisingly close to my own observations).

So, here's the question: When people are spending their own money, what percentage by macs? In other words, what's the mac share of the personal personal computer market?

Disclaimer: not looking to start a Mac vs. PC war here; just wondering what individuals spend their hard-earned moola on.
posted by dinger to Computers & Internet (26 answers total)
Apple seems to sell a lot on college campuses. If people's parents are paying for it, or if student loans are paying for it, would that qualify as spending one's own money?
posted by box at 11:22 AM on July 22, 2008

I've wondered this as well- corporate sales are definitely skewing overall numbers. Though, I think there's definitely confirmation bias at work in your personal guesstimates. Places like WalMart and Costco sell a lot of PC's equipped with Windows (and, to a lesser extent, Linux).
posted by mkultra at 11:24 AM on July 22, 2008

Also note that Apple markets their laptops as being 'cool', so people may like to show them off in public more.

I'm not sure if there's any direct way to answer your question. I can't imagine that most retailers would ever know whether you were buying a PC for personal or business use. They're the closest ones to the sale, so if they can't tell, I can't imagine there'd be any way to get to that data by aggregating it. :)
posted by Malor at 11:29 AM on July 22, 2008

Apple’s U.S. consumer market share now 21 percent

That's an article from April:

Market Share: According to IDC, Apple’s worldwide market share grew from 2.4% in 2006 to 2.9% in 2007. (See chart below.) Munster is conservatively modeling global market share to remain flat this year, but he notes that enterprise sales account for 70% of the worldwide market, a segment Apple is not aggressively targeting. In the consumer market, where Apple does compete, he estimates the Mac’s share is now 10% worldwide and an impressive 21% in the U.S.
posted by mikepop at 11:30 AM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: box: I'd say yes, since these are individuals (as opposed to an IT department) making decisions for their personal use.

mkultra: I'm pretty much admitting that my own observations are subjective…that's why I threw the question out to the hivemind.
posted by dinger at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2008

Don't forget that Macs skew higher in laptop sales but tend to be weaker in the desktop market, so what you see in coffee shops and airports doesn't necessarily reflect the larger market.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:39 AM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: mikepop: "Consumer." That's the search term I was trying to think of. Good citation.
I especially like the subhead: "Mac news from outside the reality distortion field"
posted by dinger at 11:50 AM on July 22, 2008

Not quite spending their own money, but geeky enough to tell somebody what they want (think 20+ years, socks and sandals and beards, and they probably wrote half of BSD, get sent halfway around the world for conferences every couple of months or so...). Mac is kicking ass. There are some administrative types that have MS crap, there are a few youngsters with Linux or FreeBSD, the rest of the gods of the net seem to go Mac in surprising numbers. (west coast BSD types specific confirmation bias here.)

Mac has exploded since OSX or whatever These are people used to proprietary hardware and support and expense accounts. I'm still in the Linux on 496DX for 15 years or so camp and not quite ready to switch, but the Mac still calls me.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:03 PM on July 22, 2008

A business library may be able to help you further - librarians have access to a lot more market share data and research than what you can find on the open web.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd say that while mac use is increasing, your examples show a bit of selection bias. People tend to go to places other people like them go, be it in real life or on the web. So if you're a Mac user, you're likely to be surrounded by Mac users in the forums you read, the stores you go to, etc.
posted by drezdn at 12:45 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Apple just reported that Mac sales were up 40% Y-O-Y. That's huuge.

The "with own money" angle has been important to me as a wanna-be shareware developer, since the overlap between this and my market is nearly 1:1.

I wouldn't stress abotu learning the exact number, just assume it is some substantial part of the 10M macs Apple is going to sell this year, and go from there.

If you get into a disagreement with a wintel weenie on this just listen to what they say politely. They are teh idiot, if recent history (2004-2008) holds going forward.
posted by yort at 1:12 PM on July 22, 2008

The laptop market is growing faster than the desktop market, so Apple's strength there there is skewed with respect to the installed base of all personal computers, but also an indication that their overall share of the installed base is going to be increasing.

There are companies that keep this kind of data, like IDC. They usually charge a pretty penny for it, but they often provide journalists with some access for free, so you might be able to tease details out by crawling through the press coverage that comes whenever they release a new report.
posted by Good Brain at 1:24 PM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: "Apple markets their laptops as being 'cool', so people may like to show them off in public more"

Funny you should mention this. This year I've started noticing Mac laptops that seem to be new or unusual models. Upon closer inspection I've found that these are Windows machines whose owners have stuck one of the ubiquitous white Apple decals over the Dell or HP logo (not so much Sonys; the VIAO logo is harder to completely cover up).

Since the most common way to acquire these decals is to buy a Mac, I've assumed they're Mac users at home, but are required to use the company-issued laptop at work.
posted by dinger at 1:50 PM on July 22, 2008

Among television and film propmasters, Mac's market share appears to be 95% or more.
posted by gimonca at 1:53 PM on July 22, 2008

When people are spending their own money, what percentage by macs?

You are wondering about the number of people who have macs for personal use. If mac users keep their computers longer than PC users, sales won´t reflect the true numbers of people in these groups. Likewise if PC users buy a laptop and desktop and mac users buy a single machine.
posted by yohko at 2:05 PM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: Excellent points, yohko, especially since Macs seem to retain value much longer that Windows machines. Much more of the PC market, therefore, may be replacement equipment as opposed to expanding the market. Perhaps the robust Apple hardware is actually distorting the estimates of Mac market share.
posted by dinger at 2:57 PM on July 22, 2008

Not an answer, but a data point.

I can't seem to find the link right now, but I read a very interesting story in the last few weeks which had a lead which went something like "Macs have 60% of the market -- if you start counting at $1,000".

That was the story in a nutshell. Macs have a market share around ten per cent of all computer purchases, yes, but around sixty per cent of computers costing more than US$1,000.

I'm sure when big corporations are buying, you know, pallet-loads of stock Dell's for their cubicle-dwellers, they're not in that $1,000+ range. But when people buy themselves a computer, they don't buy the cheapest thing possible, because their attitude to computing power, speed, RAM and durability is very different.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:05 PM on July 22, 2008

Found a link.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:07 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since the most common way to acquire these decals is to buy a Mac, I've assumed they're Mac users at home, but are required to use the company-issued laptop at work.

The couple of "Fake" Mac users I know all got their stickers from friends who bought Macs, actually - generally you don't go putting stickers on work-issued machines.

But when people buy themselves a computer, they don't buy the cheapest thing possible, because their attitude to computing power, speed, RAM and durability is very different.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:05 PM on July 22 [+] [!]

My purely anecdotal experience is extremely inconsistent with this statement, with regards to the general population (as opposed to computer-nerds).
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:21 PM on July 22, 2008

Also, consider people who own both Macs and PCs. That will distort statistics a bit.
posted by curagea at 4:07 PM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: AmbroseChapel: very interesting article, and right on-point.

curagea: good point, although I suppose one would have to assume that the advent of intel Macs able to run Windows would tend to shrink this market segment. I was actually one of the folks in this category until recently, when I found that the best Windows machine I'd ever used was an intel iMac running BootCamp. Keep Windows on a short leash (i.e., don't let it connect to the internet except to download software updates from trusted sites) and it's actually pretty perky, especially with no anti-virus software gumming up the works.
posted by dinger at 6:31 PM on July 22, 2008

I travel a lot, and I have also noticed this in airports. Fully half of all laptops used in airports and airplanes are Macs, in my experience. And it's not recent, it's been this way for at least five or six years now, since I started noticing.

(It's not some sort of confirmation bias, either, because I've been testing it for years. I count 'em up every time I am in a departure lounge. Of every ten laptops, 4-6 are Macs.)

I have no theory on why, other than the "corporate seats" in places like call centers must skew the numbers horrifically. Just a guess. though.
posted by rokusan at 7:36 PM on July 22, 2008

if you want to write shareware for both OSX and windows, get a mac. there are a number of ways to run XP or Vista on any recent apple, some are even free. i know, it's like putting a nice speedboat in the water and leaving the trailer tied to it, but some people NEED that one windows app.

and try XCode (free with OSX) it truly kicks a@@.
posted by KenManiac at 7:49 PM on July 22, 2008

and try XCode (free with OSX) it truly kicks a@@.

Just remember to spell it Xcode, though. ;-)
posted by secret about box at 8:26 PM on July 22, 2008

Seconding college purchases. The average 10% academic discount effectively removes the Apple premium and leveled the playing field with the cheaper and less equipped pc's. With Macs you pay more because you get more, but that more is not quantifiable until it's outta the box.
posted by limited slip at 10:23 PM on July 22, 2008

I'm not sure if this is a useful data point, but my v personal non-enterprise related blog gets (at present) 8.9% of traffic from OS X systems.

Obviously some people are browsing from the office which could still skew the figure down in the way you describe.
posted by roofus at 4:00 AM on July 23, 2008

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