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Mac and PC Market Share: Past and Present

written by: Mike Piero•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 11/22/2010

Ever wonder what market share Apple computers have in the globally dominating Windows environment? While Apple has been steadily growing their market share in every area they make products, can they really compete with Microsoft Windows-based platforms that, oftentimes, sell so inexpensively?

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    I'm an Mac, I'm a PC...

    Long before the now-famous Mac commercials featuring John Hodgman as "PC" and Justin Long as "Mac," the battle for the highest percentage of the personal computer market share has been a one-sided, yet fierce, one. Historically, Windows-based computers have dominated the market for a few reasons:

    • Windows is available for licensing to any PC manufacturer (Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc.) and, therefore, is much more widely available (Apple tried this for a while, but it almost bankrupted them in the mid-90s before Steve Jobs's return to Apple).
    • Windows computers are generally less expensive (I wouldn't be opposed to using the word "cheaper" here either).
    • Because of their dominance, Windows has a tremendous advantage in that there is exponentially more software available for the PC than for the Mac, although that is slowly beginning to change.

    For these reasons and more, Windows based computers have enjoyed a 90+% market share for long over a decade.

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    Just Some Friendly Competition

    More recently, according to ComputerWorld magazine, the Windows market share fell below 90% in 2008 for the first time in a very long time. Apple is up to an historic high at 8.9%, again as of 2008. This is up from about 4% in 2000. Many, including myself, would speculate that one of the big reason for the migration of many to the Mac environment is because of consumer reluctance to adopt Windows Vista, Microsoft's illegitimate child (brother to Windows ME) that cause so many people frustration with its slowness, irritating securing messages, and software incompatibility. What better time than to switch to a Mac, right?

    Many people, however, didn't want to (or couldn't) spend $1000+ on a new Mac. We should remember that Apple is a luxury computer and electronics company. They, admittedly, do not make a "cheap" computer, the Mac Mini being as close as they get (but at $600 plus a monitor, it's not that cheap either). While Mac computers have gained tremendous populatirty recently, it still doesn't change the fact that Windows still controls nearly 90% of the market, as the classic Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates YouTube cartoon says.

    mac-windows-logos 

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    Mac On Campus

    Business and educational institutions are still on the fence, the numbers show, on whether they should switch over from PCs to Macs, since many of them run proprietary software that is only available for Windows. College students, however, are a different group altogether. Apple's market share on college campuses range from 15-20%, which is significantly more than their share of the market as a whole. On top of that, one study shows that 40% of college students say that their next computer will be a Mac, which would have very dramatic effects on the current 90/10% market percentage now.

    This is consistent with Apple's growth, which has been tremendous. For example, in 2007, after switching to Intel-based PCs, Mac sales shot up 37%. These solid, long-term business decisions combined with their dedication to innovation and design will continue to make them a big hit with college students, who may at some point be able to begin turning to tables to a more equitable market share. Of course, having a small market share does have its advantages. Macs currently get very few viruses and spyware written for them, which is partially due to this relatively small market share. Who would waste their time writing a virus for a platform that affects only 10% of users? Other factors do come into play with preventing viruses/spyware from reaching end users, such as the superior security of UNIX platforms.

    So, for now, Apple is growing like crazy, but they still have a long way to go in the PC market to catch up to Windows-PCs. Remember, they are only one manufacturer going up against dozens of popular manufacturers. it will be a gradual change, as we are beginning to see happen. As more Mac-loving college students graduate (although not all of them love Mac, of course), I think we'll see a steady increase in Apple's percentage of the personal computer market share.