iOS Increasing Mobile Dominance, Mac OS Growth Sluggish

The comparison of market share growth for iOS devices compared to Mac OS X computers over the last two years is interesting.

Mobile/Tablet Devices – iOS has seen rapid growth as the iPhone maintained its popularity in the mobile market whilst the iPad increased its total domination of the tablet market.

According to IDC figures, Apple’s iPad rose to an incredible 68% share of the tablet market in the last quarter of 2011 – for many people iPad is synonymous with tablet computer, the yardstick against which all others are measured (and all too often found wanting).

The new iPad (3) looks likely to further cement that position – at a time when shipments from a key competitor, the Kindle Fire, collapsed to 4% in Q4 2011.

The overall mobile/tablet operating system share over the last 2 years is shown below (per NetMarketShare)

Mobile/Tablet Market Share

iOS increased steadily during the period from 40% (a narrow lead over Java ME) in May 2010 to 63% last month. By contrast, Java ME plummeted from 36% to less than 12%, Symbian faces obscurity after dropping from 12% to 2% and RIM troubles continue as Blackberry dropped from 3% to 2%.

The only other winner during the last two years was Google’s Android – up from 5% to 19%. However, the rate of Android’s increase has slowed dramatically – it added 10% in the first year but less than 5% in the second year. These figures suggest that Android stole market share from Java ME and Symbian in the early days, not from iOS.

Now those ‘easy wins’ have been achieved there is far less scope for Android growth unless it can truly compete against iOS – in the tablet market especially, this seems unlikely whilst the Android ecosystem remains so fragmented by heavily ‘skinned’ tablets like the Kindle Fire.

Looking at the figures, Java ME still has some way to fall – after that it becomes a two horse race with only one obvious winner. Microsoft may hope to have a say with the upcoming Windows 8 but I doubt it will have a huge impact on the tablet market – too little too late.

Desktop (including laptop/netbook/Mac) Devices

The situation in the desktop market is very different. Macs are seen everywhere in the media as the epitome of cool – try and remember the last time you saw a Windows computer in a film, TV program, news channel or (non-Microsoft) advert. It just doesn’t happen – unless it is to poke fun at a blue screen of death ;-)

The famous Apple logo is product placed everywhere in primetime – so much so that Windows users might think they are almost alone in sticking with their ‘boring’ and ‘ugly’ old Windows box.

However, the facts simply don’t support this media generated impression. The overall desktop operating system share over the last 2 years is shown below (per NetMarketShare)

Desktop Market Share

In the last two years Windows has barely moved from 93.4% to 92.5% market share whilst Mac OS has snailed up from 5.4% to 6.5%

There are of course national variations – Gartner estimate that Apple holds a more promising 12% of the PC market in the US. Gartner also note that the number of desktop computers sold is still increasing every year so Mac OS X is enjoying an increased share of an expanding market i.e. the actual numbers of Mac OS systems are growing faster than the bare percentages suggest.

However, an overall swing of 1% in 2 years is still not the stuff of which Apple dreams are made…

Why such a difference between Mac OS X and iOS Growth?

Partly it can be explained by the open goal that Microsoft presented to new entrants in the mobile and tablet markets – of which iOS took full advantage. Windows Phone has only belatedly morphed into an acceptable alternative (although apps are still thin on the ground and take up is very slow) whilst Microsoft missed out on the tablet market completely.

Whereas in the desktop world Microsoft is still very much king – its dominance in the business market helps keep Windows’ share up and consumers have years worth of time, learning, software and peripherals invested in the Windows platform.

It also helps that computers running Windows are so much cheaper than Mac alternatives (ignoring possible long term OS upgrades and maintenance costs) – Mac OS is always likely to remain a niche product on systems aimed very much at the higher end of the market.


Unlike Microsoft, Apple make money in the desktop market from selling hardware, not just an operating system – total market share is therefore of much less importance for Apple than it is for Microsoft as long as the numbers of units sold is growing.

It is therefore no surprise that Windows continues to dominate desktops but, although Mac OS growth may appear sluggish, its rise of 1% in total market share is a relative increase of 20% compared to two years ago.

4 thoughts on “iOS Increasing Mobile Dominance, Mac OS Growth Sluggish”

  1. It is important to mention the issue of laptop cannibalization by the iPad. It has long been known that the iPad is a competing product to laptops on some levels. Apple laptop sales grew by only 2% in Q2 2012, and this is being attributed to cannibalization of MacBook sales by the iPad. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Apple. In effect, they are gradually replacing laptops with their much higher margin iPads. Similar to how the iPhone has come to replace the standard iPod, and iPod sales have slowed – unsurprisingly. I think the future is tablets, and focusing on desktop market share does not necessarily convey this. MacBook sales could start to decrease, Windows PCs could even go to 99% market share, with Apple still be achieving its goal of dominating the tablet market.

    • Hi Dex, good point on laptop cannibalization – I haven’t got figures for Windows laptop sales but wonder if the cannibalization is even worse for Microsoft?

      Windows users who wouldn’t dream of switching to Mac OS X are buying iPads (and iPhones) like there’s no tomorrow – even tech phobic seniors and newbies/children etc seem to love the relative simplicity of tablets (which means iPad) at the expense of laptops and PCs.

      Interesting view on future of tablets – I’m still sitting on the fence as to whether they are simply an addition to, not a replacement for, laptops/netbooks/PCs. Perhaps the future will be crossover devices e.g. Asus Transformer etc. or even a full docking station with monitor…

      • You hit the nail on the head with that. I am, for example, a big fan of Windows (as a PC OS). I wouldnt consider using Mac OS, I just never liked it or felt it could accomplish what I need a computer to do. But I own an iPhone and I have considered getting an iPad. I feel when it comes to touch OS’s, Apple really does the best job.

        There was a huge market for casual internet users that was being neglected. Netbooks were supposed to fill that market, but they (netbooks) were still too complex for what this group of consumers was looking for. They wanted simple, intuitive access to email, browsing, etc. The iPad achieved this and filled its “niche”, which turned out being more than just a niche. Of course, Desktop computers were once a niche product for a small customer base. There is definitely crossover in the uses of a PC vs a tablet. I know people who sold their netbooks and only have an iPad now. I know people who have both but, given a choice of one, would stick to the computer. But I still think that, over time, the distinctions of PC and tablets will fade. Support for flash will not always be an issue, as we are moving toward HTML5 content regardless. Bluetooth keyboards make tablets viable for word processing, blogging, lengthy emails, etc. I can totally see the day where I would only need a tablet. If I was in bed I could juse hold the tablet. At my desk I could mount it on a bluetooth keyboard. When out and about, portability becomes a main concern so I probably would lose the keyboard. The hope is that technology continues to evolve so that now-necessary keyboard won’t always be necessary. Maybe we can start composing emails via voice dictation soon?

      • Cloud apps like virtual MS Office will help the crossover as they develop – assuming that broadband gets quicker and more reliable in due course (4G please!)

        ps I already use Dragon for dictating longer articles and emails and it’s very good but is a bit of a beast on resources and you look like a plank wearing a full on headset – ok for home but not out in public ;-) Voice input on tablets is a start for searches but there’s a way to go yet – exciting stuff

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