Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Macintosh Net Share Grows More Than 50%

There's been an interesting development on the way to Microsoft's domination of the computing world: Apple's share of overall Internet usage has increased almost 60% over the past year. What's even more interesting to a long-time Macintosh observer, the growth does not seem to reflect any significant cannibalization of pre-existing Macintosh usage.

Internet usage share would seem to be a useful proxy for total personal computer use. It is driven by the number of machines in service against the intensity of that use on the Internet, as derived by Net Applications from traffic at more than 40,000 representative URLs.

Here's a view of internet usage over the past year generated by machines running on Macintosh's OS X operating system, as a percentage of total traffic at those sites:

A four percent net usage share seems to correlate with press estimates of the Apple share of the market.

The surprise occurs when looking at the same data for the version of Macintosh OS X that runs Apple's newer machines, those with Intel processors:

Since their introduction a bit more than a year ago, Macintosh's Intel-based machines have picked up more than 2.5% share of net usage without any significant diminution of the earlier generation's base.

From where does the growth spring?

Growth in the personal computer market may explain a portion. Press accounts speak in terms of an overall increase in industry shipments in the 12% to 14% range over the past year. If Apple had merely kept pace with the growth in the industry, that would account for about one-seventh of the Mac increase.

Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the shares of traffic held by Microsoft's mainstay legacy operating systems—Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 98—have declined over the same period by a collective 5.44%. Vista has picked up 3.74%, apparently cannibalizing legacy installations.

So, of the 2.51% share increase for Mac Intel machines, perhaps .32% has come from industry growth and 1.70% from Windows, with .49% unaccounted.

Large percentage increases from small starting bases are not impressive of themselves, but there may be more here than is immediately apparent:

  • There is no indication that the Mac Intel growth curve is slowing, nor any evidence that it will stop itself at 2.5%.
  • Anecdotal evidence indicates Macintosh may be a beneficiary of a "halo effect" from the incredibly positive buzz and user experience surrounding successive generations of iPods. The 100 million iPods in service have created a substantial user base susceptible to Apple marketing efforts supporting Macintosh computers.
  • It's reasonable to think there will be some sort of spillover from the coming introduction of the iPhone, for which Apple and AT&T are already each claiming to have received more than 1 million inquiries. In one survey, 17% of all cell phone users indicated an interest in iPhone.
Financial markets may have already digested this asymmetric momentum: Apple's stock has increased by more than 600% in the past few years, while Microsoft's has been flat.

There was a joke at one time that there are more Wintel machines gathering dust in closets than Macintosh machines in use.

Perhaps what once was humor is now approaching reality.

Related Links:
Apple iPhone: Category Killer
Steve Jobs' Apple, Up. Microsoft, Not.


Swordmaker said...

Canticle, you are making a classic error in your interpretation of the percentages. The Mac gains NO percentage increase from the industry growth.

The total number of computers accessing the internet is always 100% of computers accessing the internet and OSes within that 100% can only jockey for a share of the total at the expense of each other.

A rising tide raises all boats equally... and the increase in industry shipments is equivalent to that tide.

If all members of the set of computer OSes accessing the internet maintained their share of all computers accessing the internet while the total number of computers increased, the OS percentages of would not change.

Since Apple's PowerPC percentage stayed static at 4% from June '06 through May '07, while the overall total number of computers accessing the internet increased by 14%, then the number of Apple PowerPCs also increased by 14%.

Therefore, the increase in Apple Intel to 2.51% over the same period cannot gain any of its percentage from "overall Market growth" either. The raw numbers of that growth include numbers from the overall market growth, but the relative percentages do not. Ergo, the .32% you attribute to "industry growth" is actually either from switchers from Windows or Newbies who chose not to buy a Windows PC for their first computer.

Apple increased its sales (and thus Net presence) at almost two times the industry average.

Bob Leibowitz said...

Good point and I agree: All of the Mac growth illustrated in this post is from its competition.