Macs now account for 10% of active personal computers

According to Net Applications, macOS accounted for 10% of the global PC user share in January and virtually the same level in February.

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Agam Shah

Macs accounted for approximately one in every 10 personal computers used to reach the web over the last two months, according to recent data from an analytics vendor.

By the tally of California-based Net Applications, macOS - the operating system that runs natively only on Macs - powered 10% of the global PC user share in January and an almost-flat 9.9% in February. The latter's number was 3.7 percentage points higher than 12 months prior, when macOS accounted for just 6.2% of all personal computers.

(Much of the one-year jump in macOS user share was credited to a one-time adjustment by Net Applications in late 2017; the move added 2.8 percentage points, or about three-fourths of the total increase, to the operating system's total when the firm scrubbed its data of bogus traffic promulgated by criminals' "bots.")

Measurements from other metrics firms pegged macOS - and by extension, Mac machines - at an even higher number. Irish company StatCounter, which, like Net Applications, tallies operating system share by counting visitors to websites, claimed that macOS ran 12.4% of the globe's PCs last month. That figure represents a much more modest increase - just seven-tenths of a percentage point - from the same month the year before.

As recently as two years ago, StatCounter's estimates put macOS at just 9.4% of all personal computers.

Making up a tenth of all personal computers has long been a potential milestone for Macs. That it has reached the mark - after a 34-year pursuit of machines powered by Microsoft operating systems - is notable, said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research.

"It's due on some level to growth driven by BYOD," said O'Donnell, referring to the corporate policies covered by the "bring your own device" term. "Over the years, companies have been more willing to let employees bring their own devices in. I presume that has something to do with [Mac growth]."

O'Donnell cited other likely reasons for the Mac's one-in-10 portion of the personal computer installed base, including a long-term trend away from applications segregated by operating system toward cloud-based apps, as well as security concerns. "Macs are generally considered to be more secure because of fewer attacks [aimed at them]," O'Donnell argued.

The first of those two reasons, however, was probably more pertinent, as the shift from apps-by-OS to cross-platform apps has, along with enterprise BYOD, contributed to a broader movement, O'Donnell pointed out.

"It's easier to add a non-Windows machine to an environment than it's ever been," he said.

True. Microsoft's Windows, once the overwhelming powerhouse of technology devices, has been largely abandoned by consumers, who have adopted more mobile solutions instead - primarily smartphones and tablets. Commercial customers remain the bedrock Windows part in the operating system, but it's unclear whether enterprise systems are being replaced at historical rates, or whether that market, too, is shrinking.

The rise of Mac share may have little or nothing to do with increased sales of Apple machines, as the increase in the user base has not been accompanied by similar boosts in at-the-time sales and shipments. During 2017, for example, Apple said it sold 19 million Macs, which according to Gartner, accounted for only 7.2% of global PC shipments during the period. That part of shipments was significantly lower than the Mac portion of all personal computers in use during the year.

Rather than look to sales and shipments, the Mac share increase might be credited to owners holding onto their systems longer, on average, than do owners of Windows PCs. Or numbers of the latter have simply set aside their Windows machines, in effect striking them off the active rolls, while Mac owners continue to work theirs. In both scenarios, the Mac, even if not quickly growing in raw numbers, would compose a larger percentage of the whole.

"It's kind of ironic [that Macs reached the 10% milestone] when they have fallen further behind Windows machines than they've ever been," asserted O'Donnell, ticking off everything from "better and broader i/o" of the latter to a "greater range of screen sizes and resolutions." And in performance, Macs have lagged behind Windows-based personal computers, O'Donnell said.

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