A new set of data was released today that shows the ratio of PCs to Macs sold. The numbers in the article appear to be based on global sales. The ratio isn’t at it’s lowest ever. Macs were sold in far greater proportion to PC’s in the 1990’s (although they still lagged behind). But the 2011 numbers match the 1985 numbers, and the trend so far as been down. What is interesting is, on the graph, there is a sharp drop from the peak in 2004 to the beginning of the gap narrowing in 2005. After that, the graph has a pretty steady downward trajectory.
So what happened in 2005? Looking back at events of that year, three things happened. A new iPod was released that supported video, and not just music. The Mac Mini was released. Steve announced that Macs would be moving to Intel in 2006. All of the Macs released in 2005 (updated iMacs, iBooks, MacBooks and Power Macs, plus the new Mini) were all G4/PowerPC machines. Intel-based Macs didn’t start arriving until early 2006. It’s hard to say why any of those events would suddenly drive Mac sales, given that they would be more-or-less obsolete machines in 2006, and future support for them would eventually end. If anything, I would have expected that the 2005 ratio would be about the same as the 2004 ratio, and then the steep drop would have occurred in 2006.
What is also interesting is that we don’t see huge changes around events that have been described as being where Apple solidified their position in the market. The introduction of the Intel macs, the debut of the MacBook Air and the release of the unibody MacBooks don’t seem to have an impact on the rate of change year over year. What is clear is that the narrowing of the gap between the two platforms is dropping in a near-linear fashion. If things continue as they are, the gap could be narrowed to zero sometime around 2015. But of course, nothing sits still and change is inevitable. Predicting the future based on a graph carries its own peril at times.
Just to be clear: according to the source, this is Mac vs. PC, and doesn’t include iPad. It would be interesting to see what that ratio looks like. We know it would be tighter.
But what does this mean? Is the Windows PC going away? Not really. Overall PC sales are expected to be down a bit in 2012, but the Windows PC volume is expected to be down further than Mac or iPad volume (both of which appear set to increase through 2012). Part of me expects the ratio graph to level off at some point, and that Windows PC sales will continue to be somewhat larger than Mac sales. But what that actual ratio will be is uncertain. Windows 8 may or may not change the dynamic, and the impact of the iPad is still underway. What impact the Surface and other Win8 tablets have has yet to be determined. The only safe thing to say is that betting against the Mac now may not be a good idea.