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In December iPhone Jumps, OS X Plateaus, Safari Falls to Chrome

The last report for 2009 from web metrics firm Net Applications ends another solid year of growth for the iPhone OS. In contrast, Mac OS X appears to be flattening out at around five percent, while Chrome has officially passed Safari to become the third most popular web browser.

For December, the iPhone recorded the single largest monthly gain in market share since the device was introduced, jumping 20 percent from last month to 0.43 percent of the total OS market. While that may seem insignificant in terms of share, that spike fits in nicely with estimates of record-breaking iPhone sales for the holiday quarter. Those estimates range from 8.8 million to 11 million iPhones, and would smash last quarter’s record of 7.4 million iPhones sold.

In terms of where iPhone OS stands against competitors, it is now tied with ubiquitous Java ME devices, both at around 37 percent. However, it should be noted that Net Applications measures market share based on web browsing, so the value of an excellent browsing experience can outweigh actual sales.

Case in point, Android, which until the Droid has seen relatively poor sales, has nonetheless quintupled market share this year according to Net Applications, and now represents .05 percent of total OS share. That would be about half the share of the iPod touch. Looking at the iPhone OS overall, it now represents one half of one percent of OS market, about half the share of Linux and a tenth of what OS X has.

As for OS X, the numbers don’t lie. It’s a Windows world. OS X started 2009 at 4.71 percent and ended at 5.11 percent, an increase of about 8.5 percent. That’s not bad, but consider that two years ago OS X was at 3.59 percent of OS share, increasing to 4.45 percent by the end of 2008, a 24 percent increase. Apple sold more Macs than ever in 2009, so what happened?

The Great Recession happened, Windows 7 happened, but most importantly the netbook happened. 2009 saw Acer race past Apple in computer sales due exclusively to the cheap devices. Everyone is selling netbooks, except Apple, the company’s answer to the netbook being the long-rumored tablet set for a long-rumored unveiling later this month. While the tablet won’t reverse the trend for OS X, especially since it will probably be running iPhone OS, Apple will at least have an alternative for consumers looking at netbooks.

As for alternatives to Internet Explorer in web browsing, that would be Firefox, followed by Chrome, which is now followed by Safari. With the release of the Chrome beta for Windows, Mac, and Linux, it was only a matter of time before Safari was passed by. December makes it official. Chrome is now at 4.63 percent of browser share, followed by Safari at 4.46 percent. Safari appears to have plateaued at around 4.5 percent of total share.

Of course, with Apple it’s never been about market share for any product. The company’s business model has always been predicated upon selling a unique experience at a profit…considerable profit. If a consumer phenomenon like the iPod or iPhone happens, too, so much the better. It seems unlikely an Apple Tablet can replicate that kind of success against the netbooks, but it certainly will be exciting to watch it try.

64 Responses to “In December iPhone Jumps, OS X Plateaus, Safari Falls to Chrome”

  1. I say “Bunk” !

    On my server which gets over 1 million page views per month, dec 09 had safari at 14.9% and Chrome at 3.8% … I’m not sure where they are getting these charts from, but their numbers certainly don’t jive with my site

  2. To be fair, Google has also been advertising Chrome on their website. One of very few ads they’ve ever displayed. I’ve been seeing a graphic in the upper right hand corner telling me that I should download Chrome too.

  3. The graph picturing the OSX Market Share is wrong.

    Until june 2009 the OSX market share was 9,7% according to Net Application

    Then they make a “change” so the Apple percentage was cut in half.


  4. One point about Safari falling to Chrome. They both use Webkit as do their mobile variants on Android and iPhone, so for Apple it’s not really a loss for the open source browser project they’re both working on. I’ve switched at home to Chrome from Safari and to Chrome at work from Firefox. As a developer, I love all these browsers for embracing standards and promoting innovation but Chrome is quick and has a really nice UI experience. Looking forward to essential extensions coming to Chrome for Mac, something that Safari never really embraced.

  5. Peter H

    This doesn’t check out with my web sites’ stats, especially the browsers. Depending on the site (a more affluent site demographics is usually skewed towards Macs and hence higher Safari usage), I see Safari at between 10% and 20%, with Chrome in the 4%-8% range.

    • tubedogg

      You contradicted your own point. Yes, “depending on the site,” which is why we don’t use your site’s metrics to represent the entire internet. NetApps uses many websites to draw its conclusions.

      And of course on Mac, Safari is going to be higher, at least for now. Chrome is still in Beta and Safari is still the only browser installed by default.

  6. do the iPhone OS figures represent sales of 3Gs or low-cost contracts on the 2G ? and you may want to look into the math here : ” OS X started 2009 at 4.71 percent and ended at 5.11 percent, an increase of about 8.5 percent. “

    • tubedogg

      5.11 – 4.71 = 0.40. 0.40/4.71 = 0.849 which rounds up to 8.5. The raw difference is 0.40, the percentage gain is 8.5% of the original number.

      Yes it’s a bit confusing because we are talking about percentage differences of percentages, but the math is correct all the same.

  7. OS X: 8.5% year over year growth is nothing to sneeze at. People had their dalliance with “net books” in 2009, but most netbooks still run Windows and ALL of them are cheap junk–they are a fad, not a trend, and if Apple does a tablet, they are history.

    On Browsers: I use Firefox 3.0.x. Decently fast; VERY full featured. My second choice is Safari, but I might try Flock someday. Chrome is a non-starter. According to Technologizer, Chrome is not as fast as Safari (Both Safari and Chrome beat Firefox, though). Google also doesn’t see Chrome as strategic– it took them OVER A YEAR between announcing it and releasing it. That’s lame. I think Safari’s problem has been slow adoption on the Windows side, because adoption of ANYTHING on Windows tends to be slow. Chrome appears to have higher adoption rates, perhaps, because it can be installed as a plug-in in IE– smoke and mirrors marketing. In any event, Safari is almost certain to be the world’s most widely used browser in 1-2 years, since it is default on the iPhone AND used on many computers, also.

    People should take NetApps with a grain of salt, in any event. The error bars are high.

    • theorangebox

      How about the apple air, talk about an overpirced piece of junk.
      most macbooks have the same cheap hardware as windows laptops so an apple mac tablet will be another overpriced piece of shit..!! ther onlt saving grace is the mac os and i can run that on my new self built hackintosh for less than $600 that will kick any macs ass..LOL so blaa blaa..BLAA macdudes

    • SuiDepPhaStu


      As far as major name-brand components go, sure, Apple usually has the same stuff as Windows PCs.

      However, Apple still has higher quality hardware. They use their own in-house logic board designs, hold their manufacturers up to very high standards, and buy higher quality electronic components. The result is a computer that runs more stably and lasts longer than most Windows OEMs sell, and vastly better than anything someone could build with off-the-shelf commodity parts. That, mind you, is on top of top-notch industrial design that few companies even begin to approach, much less match.

      Furthermore, the MacBook Air uses a range of specialty parts that come at a premium (such as an off-roadmap Core 2 Duo CPU designed for a smaller footprint), and the engineering that went into making it so thin and yet strong is nothing to sneeze at. If you look at other notebooks that attempt the same thing with similar parts, such as the Voodoo Envy 133, you’ll find similar prices as well. Given the market Apple was aiming for – that is, business users who want a very light computer without sacrificing screen real estate and keyboard size the way notebooks do – the MacBook Air’s price is actually rather reasonable.

  8. That’s true. Chrome has put a lot of effort into their browser. We saw the Safari just fizzle after their previous release. I would rather have Apple focus on what they are good at.

  9. Gazoobee

    It doesn’t make any sense to say “Safari falls to Chrome” when Safari’s market share has actually increased. Safari also has no aspirations to being a mainstream “everyone uses it” browser and has said that over and over again. They have a steady niche market share that increases slowly over time. Same as always.

    • Upon the release of Safari for Windows, Steve Jobs said that “hundreds of millions of Windows users already use iTunes, and we look forward to turning them on to Safari’s superior browsing experience too.” Safari for Windows has failed to achieve a fraction of the success that iTunes has, and it seems hard to believe that Apple wanted things to turn out that way. Google has put a lot more effort into Chrome over a shorter period of time, and will likely be rewarded for it, and some of that success will come at the expense of Apple. It’s unfortunate because it didn’t have to be this way.