A new report from Verto Analytics claims that a huge swath of the PC market is eager to switch to a Mac PC (desktop or laptop), with 21 percent of laptop owners and 25 percent of desktop owners supposedly willing to make the jump. At the same time, Verto claims that 98 percent of current Mac owners are happy with their systems, with just 2 percent planning to switch to a Microsoft-based PC over the same time frame.
Verto’s survey also found that the highest earners are the most likely to switch to Mac (which makes sense). Its research showed that the majority of its survey respondents in the bottom income brackets were people in their teens or early 20s, suggesting that parents would help fund these purchases.
Verto doesn’t give any concrete data on how they conducted their polling. But there’s a fundamental problem with this claim: It’s completely unsupported by historical trends or recent sales data. According to IDC, Mac sales fell 9.8 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. Apple’s market share recovered somewhat in Q1 2017, as shown below, but the worldwide figures don’t show a huge surge in sales for Mac systems.
Verto’s survey was of American users, who tend to be a bit Mac-friendlier than other regions. But a look at recent US market share doesn’t support any prediction of a huge surge in Apple ownership, either. US-specific data is sometimes harder to find than worldwide shipment information, but IDC and Gartner have both published data at different times. First, here’s US-specific sales data for a number of PC OEMs during 2014 and 2015.
IDC charts Apple’s market share as growing modestly in 2015 compared with 2014, but remaining under 10 percent of the total market. Apple’s profit share of the PC space is far larger, thanks to its refusal to ship the $400 to $600 PCs that often dominate sales at OEMs like Dell, HP, and Lenovo. But its historic market share has been in the 4 to 15 percent range over the last 10 years. It improved significantly once Apple adopted x86 processors and has bounced up and down based on refresh cycle timing and the overall contraction in PC market shipments over the past five years.
Data from Gartner also shows a relatively stable market share for Apple over the last few years.
Gartner’s figures are higher than what IDC measured, but they’re still stable and show relatively constant market share. I can easily believe that Apple could pick up a bit of extra market share through the end of 2017 thanks to its recent product refreshes. But a 20-25 percent exodus of Windows PC users over to Apple wouldn’t just be unprecedented — it would likely kill at least one major OEM. And it’s not even clear Apple could ramp production to meet increased demand.
Consider the actual numbers in Gartner’s chart. in Q1 2016, Apple shipped an estimated 1.66 million computers, compared with 13.146 million for the entire market. Let’s be generous and assume that 1 percent of the market is composed of Linux buyers who wouldn’t switch to Windows or Mac in any event. The resulting market (minus Apple’s share and our Linux carveout) is 11.365 million PCs in North America in Q1 2016.
If even 15 percent of the existing PC market suddenly switched its buying to Mac, Apple’s total market share would more than double. But contract manufacturing takes time, as does creating appropriate supply lines. That’s even more true when, like Apple, you tend to define your style with things like unibody aluminum chassis. Sure, whichever PC manufacturing company handles Dell or HP orders would actively want to start building machines for Apple, but that doesn’t mean they’ve got the chassis and other equipment they would need to do so.
Consideration isn’t surprising, switching would be
The bottom line is this: There have always been people who switched between Mac and PCs, either on a semi-regular basis or as a one-time deal. Apple has at least doubled its market share since switching to x86 chips, thanks in no small part to its ability to run Windows. The company holds high-profile press events and is often treated as a bellwether for the entire PC industry. Even Apple’s failed products have often been trendsetters in retrospect; the Apple Newton was an early forerunner of PDAs, while the G4 Cube was unquestionably a small-form-factor system. If I was only in the PC market every few years, I’d undoubtedly at least check out Apple’s product lines when making my decision.
I’m not implying wrongdoing on Verto’s part, but I don’t believe their survey results. The idea that such a huge chunk of the PC market could or would simply up and move to Apple, or that Apple could even absorb the influx of customers within such a short period of time, are both highly dubious assertions. Customers may talk about making these kinds of moves due to brand halos or favorable perception, but there’s no indication that PC consumers are going to leap for Apple en masse.