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November OS Share Numbers: Should Microsoft Be Scared?

The latest numbers from Net Applications’ Operating System stats are available, and they provide a nice epilogue to last month’s numbers. In October the Mac’s share was down, and Vista’s was up, prompting some to write about the apparent anomaly.

I countered that notion with my own writeup that showed both Windows and Mac have ups and downs in their numbers, so any single month isn’t particularly relevant. This is also true because Net Applications’ numbers themselves are really just a measure of OS usage hitting their network of web sites worldwide (~40,000 sites). It may be as accurate an OS measure as any, but one would still have to say it’s not conclusive. If anything, since some of those sites could be IE-only, it might even be skewed against any non-Microsoft OS. 

But the data is sure fun to play with.

Looking at November’s numbers for just Windows and Mac we see the Mac back up, wiping out the tiny “loss” of last month while adding over half a point. Meanwhile, while Vista is up again (~1.2 points), XP is down (~1.8 points). This is just additional confirmation of the point in my previous article: Vista’s gains are coming primarily at XP’s expense. Hardly unexpected. 

For even more fun, let’s take a look at Windows (all flavors) and Mac (Intel and PowerPC) over the last two years (in the graph below note that the Windows scale is in the left, and Mac scale is on the right): 

From 12/06 to 11/08 Windows loses 4.2 percent while Mac gains 3.2. Where did the other 1 percent of Windows losses go? Well, Linux picked up nearly half a point, and I assume the other half-point went to the ever-popular — and every statisticians’ best friend — category known as “Other.”

In short, the trends are these: 

  • Vista is gaining share. 
  • XP is losing share as fast (or faster) than Vista is gaining it. 
  • Windows “net” is that it’s losing share. 
  • Mac is gaining share. 

Obviously, these things go slowly. After all, the above graph took two years. It’s not like Microsoft should panic now that that they’ve dipped below 90 percent; nor should Apple crow that they’re up to nearly 9. That’s a 10 to 1 disparity; it’s pretty obvious which one is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. 

Still, the overall trends are not in Microsoft’s favor, and Apple’s move from 5.7 to 8.9 represents a 56 percent increase in two years. That’s impressive no matter how you look at it.

24 Responses to “November OS Share Numbers: Should Microsoft Be Scared?”

  1. And to rub salt in the wounds Net Applications readjusted the figures to show a less US-centric market share and Apple dropped below 5%.

    Apple – Going nowhere and fast.

  2. AND Mac sales did not take 30% sales. AS predicted you were WRONG ‘E’. Apple will never have the big share, it won’t even pass 15% in the next 5 years. It will probably fall below 5% considering Jobs is about to die, and Microsoft is getting ready to release Windows 7.

    Also Linux people who think this is THE year for linux, please STFU. You’ve been saying the samething for 20 years “THIS IS THE YEAR FOR LINUX!!! OMFG!!!! YES!!!!” No linux is going to be dealing with scraps of the OS industry, as usual.

  3. rasmasyean

    In those stats keep in mind that since Macs (and Linux) has less applications, users tend to surf the web a lot more. And there are many Windows machines used mostly for work so they don’t surf the web as much. There are a LOT more Windows installations than that graph says. Think about all those gamers and Office users. And besides, that firm prolly logs mostly US sites so that’s where Apple is highly concentrated.
    Linux “desktops” are very few and far between. It is mostly used for servers in those server versions. A lot for Web. Google “Netcraft”. OVERALL servers is ruled by MS anyway. Google “IDC server market”. Linux desktop was a nice idea to make cheap computers for poor communities and such. But it’s going to fade away now because Windows XP can run on most of those XO laptops and governments want Windows XP to train their kids on “world class software” instead of obscure IT stuff that barely anyone uses.

    I think the only other chance Linux had to rule a segment was in “equipment”. But being open source it was hard to make money on linux stuff so no one developed software for it and evolved it. So Windows once again rules the embedded OS’s on industrial equipment and hospitals and retail and airports and too many other to list. Even WinCE rules handheld equipment…another sector that Linux’s low footprint “would have” given it a good chance. But as with anything that’s “hard to make money off of”, not many want to take it seriously.

  4. Boy, I don’t check the site all day and look at the comments I miss! Just a few of my own:


    I find the polling information interesting, and I don’t mind looking at US (and then global) share. However, I sometimes wonder about just using retail. It’s great of course to show how incredibly successful Apple’s retail stores are. But it’s not the primary model Dell and HP use, so it’s kind of an Apples to Oranges comparison. I mean, even if they get 30% of US retail they’ll still likely be third in the US.


    “All I know is I don’t need Apple to have a 30% marketshare to enjoy owning and using my Macs.”

    Amen to that. At some point, Apple may get enough share that it’s actually a hindrance (in terms of support obligations, etc.). On the other hand, to do that they’d need to implement some of the silly things analysts want them to do (cheap macs, license OS X, an iPhone nano, etc.), and I don’t see them going there.


    “Mac is good for Mac stuff (art/school crowd mostly). Windows is good for everything else (work, games, etc). This isn’t changing any time soon. For every Mac software title out there, there are 20+ Windows titles.”

    Oh please. 1989 called. It wants it’s silly Mac excuses back.

    Druid Dude,

    “Macs will not get 30%. The reasons? Recession and price.”

    You could very well be right. Honestly, I don’t think anyone knows what the economy is doing to Xmas shopping. While Black Friday was not a boon over last year, analysts had to fall all over themselves — and go out of their way — to explain why the numbers were much “worse” than they looked. And most of them had to admit that Apple’s weren’t bad.

    Ron Johnson:

    “Linux is barely relevant statistically at 0.83 percent – that’s less than the 1.95% for “Other”. I have to say, that surprises me.”

    Why? I ran Linux a while back, but I’m a bit of a geek. Being free doesn’t mean anything to the vast majority of people when you get an OS with your PC anyway.


    “Few crucial problems with the methodology:”

    You brought up good points, and I could bring up more. The fact is, as I’ve said in the past, this is not a particularly exact method of calculating OS share (nor browser share, which is another data point they provide). Still, if the methodology stays the same from year to year, and you gather and use it for historical purposes, then the trends it reveals are interesting.


    The numbers I used in the article do NOT include the iPhone/iPod touch. The data is available, and I would maybe have included it if I also had the Windows Mobile numbers, but the latter are not provided. For the record, Mobile OS X was closing in on .4%.


    “Looks like all the stuff being touted by Apple is pretty false. Vista adoption has been much much greater than Mac adoption.”

    I don’t recall Apple saying Vista adoption was slower than Mac adoption. They (and everyone else) have said that Vista adoption was SLOW, but even at that rate it was only a short matter of time before the number of clients sold would exceed all Macs in existence. In fact, I seem to remember Microsoft trumpeting when this “event” occurred.

  5. @dusanmal

    I would like to comment on your 3 points:
    1)The majority of advanced users use Windows. There will be a very small MS bias in this survey due to advanced users blocking cookies.

    2)I disagree with this. It may be true that an average Linux user is more picky with their surfing than the average Windows user, but I don’t think it will have any significant effect on this.

    3)Millions of Windows computers have little or no web access in workplaces. I would say that Mac has a bias in this area as the Mac demographic is younger and more likely to spend a lot of time surfing the web than large sections of PC and Linux users.

    Also, Windows computers are more likely to be used by multiple users (e.g. family computer or shared work PC). This means that every Windows PC counted represents on average more actual users than every Mac and Linux computer counted.

  6. I helped to drive up the Apple numbers, even if it was just a small amount. I agree that the rise in Vista numbers are largely at the expense of Windows XP. My decision to switch to Mac was made simple by my using Windows Vista in the first week it was released.

    I am not going to make any predictions about market share, but I can tell you that since I bought two Macs this year, I have two friends that have purchased Macs to replace their PCs after only having them for one year and 8 months. Both of these users were frustrated by Vista and they know how happy I have been with my Macbook.

  7. Looks like all the stuff being touted by Apple is pretty false. Vista adoption has been much much greater than Mac adoption. Unless they drop Mac pricing by a whole lot Apple will stay in there 10-20% market share.

  8. I’m pretty sure that iphone users and ipod touch users count as part of Apples statistical growth as safari is the only browser allowed on that platform. I personally have 3 unbuntu & mint machines, bought 2 eeepc’s for my relatives and only run Windows in Virtual box for devices that aren’t yet linux supported (my iPod Touch). My ipod touch is my main web browser when I’m on the road for work. That’s how apple broke the 6% barrier.

    Windows doesn’t have much to worry about though. Even with the explosion of the iphone and the popularity of the mac line, they have yet to crack 10%. As long as OSX can only be legally installed and run on 1 platform they will never break the barrier. Windows is leading the way because they are entrenched in the business world, entrenched in the gaming world, run on a multitude of hardware configs and (here’s the kicker…) you can find and install a pirated copy of not only the OS but it’s software anytime you want.

    Working within the tech side of banking system I can tell you there’s isn’t an Apple machine in site. It’s all embedded linux, windows & IBM Os2 on the servers and terminals and Windows on the main desktops.

    I think Apple is happy where they are. They own the consumer device market in the US… frankly I don’t think they’d want to deal with challenges of getting much bigger.

  9. What Ever

    As horrible as ist is: almost EVERY website uses Google Analytics today (the one you’re on, too).

    Google buys webmasters by giving Google Analytics away for free, in return collecting all the privacy data from visitors and building huge profiles of all of you.

    Please welcome our new big brother.

  10. I still don’t understand why Linux is not gaining a larger market share. For five years I have dabbled in various Linux disros. Then about three years ago discovered Ubuntu. Even in Ubuntu’s infancy, it was the best distro available that recognized MOST laptop and desktop hardware immediately without many post-install tweaks. There were always a few things I couldn’t do in Ubuntu that could be done in Windows, so I split my time 50/50. In the latest edition (Ubuntu 8.10), I went from clean install to a darn near FULL WINDOWS REPLACEMENT in 20 minutes. My machine is Ubuntu-only, and I installed VMWare. So in those RARE times that I must use Windows, such as interfacing with one of my gadgets that does not support anything but Mac or Windows (ie. SkyCaddie Golf Rangefinder or my Garmin GPS), I can start Windows from within Ubuntu, do what I have to and be done.

    It’s a fantastic alternative for a number of reasons. (1) It’s FREE!!!! (2) It’s community supported so improvements come much more quickly (3) It’s more secure. Since creators of malware want the most bang for their buck, they write malware that targets 85% of the world’s computers, which are Windows-based machines. Also, the security architecture of Linux (requiring Root/Admin privileges to make system changes) prevents most problems. (4) It’s VERY lightweight. What I mean is that most Linux distros with run flawlessly on older hardware. Say for instance you have a 5-year old desktop with 512MB or RAM and a slower processor. You cannot run Mac OS because it’s not a Mac. You cannot run Vista because your hardware is way to slow, and your hard drive is probably too small. You could run XP, but Microsoft has phased out this OS, and since most of their developers are focused on Vista and the new Windows 7, security patches will soon become non-existent. Since XP still has an overwhelming marketshare, it will be the bulls-eye for viruses and other malware for years to come.

    Linux is certainly not for everyone yet. To get the most out of it, there is still some manipulation needed. But you don’t need to be an expert either.

  11. Few crucial problems with the methodology:

    1) It relies on people tracked by javascript/cookie method. Majority of advanced users will not be tracked. Majority of those users are more tech-savvy and likely to use other-than-Windows OS. Bias toward MS.

    2) It relies on set of websites “evil enough” to staple tracking cookies to their visitors. There are plenty of people who would not come back to the site if they found that they are tracked like that. I personally quit patronage of some very good businesses after the googleanalytics appeared on their checkouts… Again, advanced users are likely missed, not the MS. Bias toward MS.

    3) Finally, it relies on web-traffic. This particularly hurts Linux (and to some extent Mac). Many Linux systems are highly specialized and users rarely use them for browsing (ex. school systems) and some of Macs are like that too (say AV production,…). Again pro-MS bias.

  12. Ron Johnson

    Linux is barely relevant statistically at 0.83 percent – that’s less than the 1.95% for “Other”. I have to say, that surprises me. I’m in the process of installing Linux on yet another home computer since it is free and the applications are getting so good (at least the main apps – Firefox and Open Office in my case).

  13. Again, I am referring to RETAIL, not to the general market in which Dell and HP certainly dominate. I am talking about people buying them as gifts and for the home. And yeah, those 60% of US sales do not translate to 60 % of HOME sales, and even if they did, if apple had 25%, Dell and HP 50% together, and the rest make up the remaining 25%, does that not put Apple tied for 1st place?
    I am speculating, but we will see…

  14. Gonna have to agree with Druid Dude on this one – the economy isn’t in a place right for people to go out and pay the Apple Tax for a $1200+ desktop computer when similar spec machines are available for half the price with Windows or Linux. The same goes for laptops, though obviously the EEE PC isn’t the same specs as a Macbook, the majority of internet/email-using coffee shop goers don’t need the power and can’t afford the price.

  15. John Scott

    Is this statistically for just the US? Because the world figures are much different from what I have been reading. Apple is more of a US statistic then anywhere else.
    Not to say Apple has not gained significantly in the US market as we see. But to think Microsoft is shaking in its Windows is silly. I would say Apple will be lucky to see 10% market share. They will of course be very happy with that. As for taking over number 1 in computer sales. That is ridiculous, Dell and HP have (last I checked)had over 60% of US sales.
    In a economy where all computer sales will be down I think it’s dreaming to think Apple will gain a lot. Especially when they offer only higher priced computers. As I have seen from Best Buy sales. The best selling were cheaper bottom end laptops.

  16. Look, I am NOT trying to be a Mac zealot. I am not disparaging PCs. All I am doing is quoting survey figures about trends in retail sales for this holiday season. Apple capturing 30% of that market would not even have them crack 15% of sales in the US (that sure is NOT happening this holiday season). The survey was of people planning to buy computers in the 3 month quarter, in retail.

    Apple does not need this. If anything, being #1 sucks because then everyone wants to take you down, and everyone does like to take Apple down. It also brings more scrutiny on Apple’s often monopolistic tendencies.

    As for what Tobin says, 20-1? No way. Maybe 3-1. There are approximately 20,000 applications available for Mac OS X. There are certainly not over 100,000 applications for the PC. That would put it at 5-1. As I said, it is more like 3-1. And from being a developer, on both platforms, for years, and buying software for both, for years, I can tell you that much of the software for the PC is really bad…

    As I said, meet you all back here when the figures come out…

  17. I own a Mac. They are well built machines. However, I have Windows Vista 64-bit on it too. Mac is good for Mac stuff (art/school crowd mostly). Windows is good for everything else (work, games, etc). This isn’t changing any time soon. For every Mac software title out there, there are 20+ Windows titles. In games, it is more like 100 or more to 1.

  18. Techslacker

    Someone’s drinking the koolaid.

    All I know is I don’t need Apple to have a 30% marketshare to enjoy owning and using my Macs. I don’t write software. I don’t own stock. It’s not like there’s any kinda secret club I aspire to join. And, lastly I don’t work for Apple.

    No matter the marketshare as long as Apple can hold on to it’s current customers that seems to be a large enough market to satisfy me with the software I need.

    In all honesty I find marketshare numbers extremely misleading as it can be catered to look good or bad for any segment. Actual usage of systems which is tough to measure is the only real method that matters. And, don’t even bring up the incredibly misleading web browser usage marketshare. It’s pathetic that anyone uses it with any credibility.

  19. Well, just so as you know, I did not pull that out of my a**. I was looking at the Change Wave poll from this last September:
    Where 34% of those planning to buy laptops in the next 90 days said they would buy Macs, and 30% of those planning to buy desktops. While this is just one metric, I have seen the rush to Macs in every circle I turn. If Apple even comes close, it would do it at the expense of DELL and HP – and that would make Apple’s portion of the market pretty damn close to theirs. Scoff all you want, but this may very well happen. I will check back in on this blog when sales figures come out for the CONSUMER holiday season (again, I am not referring to business purchases, JUST consumer)

  20. I predict Apple will for the 1st time be the #1 computer seller this holiday season in the US, with 30% of new computers for the home going to Apple. If that does come true (and it will, mark my word,) it won’t be just MSFT running scared, but DELL and HP as well….