For as long as I can remember in the internet age, circa mid-1990s, Apple has had a problem with marketshare. The only Apple product that had dominant marketshare was the iPod, which became part of the iPhone and that had even greater sales success. But not marketshare success. In fact, every major Apple product does poorly in the marketshare metric. Mac, iPhone, iPad.
Is marketshare important? It is one metric to determine how well a product is doing, but it’s one metric among many, and not the most important. Product revenue is another important metric. The number of customers is important. So is the gross profit for each product sold. Perhaps the most important metric is profit and its close cousin, profitshare. On most important metrics beyond marketshare, Apple does very well.
Yet, what you read in the headlines of article after article online, year after year, is how Apple is losing to Windows or Android in marketshare. The latest reports says Apple’s Mac marketshare is at a five year low. That one I found interesting because Mac sales for the past 10 years have been going up while traditional PCs have plateaued or dropped; even more in recent years. So, how does the Mac’s marketshare drop while sales are going up?
Reason #1 has to do with the methodology to determine total PC sales, and from that Mac sales, both of which result in marketshare. Apple publishes Mac sales units with financial results every quarter. Name another PC manufacturer that does the same thing? Silence, right? That means the marketshare figures you read about are guesstimates. That. Is. All. Researchers conduct various surveys or gather data here and there and make an estimate, and those estimates– guesstimates– vary wildly between researchers and data gatherers. The only one the media really cares about is marketshare for an Apple product because Apple also owns the tech industry’s mindshare.
Marketshare may be the least important of the major metrics yet we seldom read about those metrics that are more important.
Here are some others. Android reportedly– from Google– has about 1.6-billion devices in use around the world. Apple says they have over 1-billion iOS users around the world. While Android dominates in total marketshare numbers, Apple’s iconic iPhone and iPad dominant the more important profitshare metric– over 90-percent for each. Likewise, the Mac, which may have between 5-percent and 15-percent marketshare– depending upon whose report guesstimate is the most recent– also has more than 50-percent of the entire PC industry’s profits thanks to selling only premium products which are priced higher and come with much larger gross profits.
Why don’t we read about Apple’s profitshare dominance?
Another number that bothers my mathematics sensibilities is the overall device marketshare. Again, these are guesstimates, but Device Atlas claims Android’s marketshare is nearly 6 times Apple’s iOS. Yet, 1.6-billion devices is not 6 times 1-billiion devices. I’ve read so many articles which point to Android OS at about 80-percent marketshare and iOS devices at 15-percent that I stop reading after the first paragraph.
The math does not add up.
There are various reports that point out the same thing, but generally speaking Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac are premium devices that also command a strong resale value so the devices get used for years long than their competitors. That fact does not show up in marketshare figures which rely on sales guesstimates, so Android OS at 1.6-billion devices, and iOS at 1-billion devices is a more accurate representation of device usage vs. sales, and profitshare– where Apple dominates– is even more important.
This has been an age old and ongoing issue when technology and traditional media write about Apple’s products. That tells me tech writers are shallow and looking for a catchy headline rather than providing readers with some insightful analysis.
Would Apple like to sell more iPhones, iPads, and Macs? Sure. Likewise, Dell, HP, and Lenovo would like get more profits from their PC sales. Likewise, Samsung, Huawei, and others would like to get some real profits from their smartphone and tablet sales.
The next time you read about a product’s marketshare vs. another product, ignore it. And ignore both the publication and the writer who published such drivel. Marketshare often is the the least important of basic metrics of product success.