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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Apple Death Knell #38: "The Mac Market Is Ending"
March 8th, 2004

Noted Windows fan site publisher Paul Thurrott has announced to the world that "the Mac market is ending." Mr. Thurrott -- whose main job is either obsessively following Apple (the word "Apple" appears 207 times on the home page of "Paul Thurrott's Internet Nexus," and that's just from February 9th to today), trolling TMO's forums without signing his full name, or lauding the many benefits of whatever product Microsoft has just announced, but not shipped -- made this announcement in response to a Geek.com article questioning how Apple will grow the Mac market.

The answer, according to Mr. Thurrott, is obvious. The Mac market will not grow, and indeed, will end. This makes Mr. Thurrott eligible for the 38th entry into our Apple Death Knell Counter, a project tracking the number of times that Apple has been declared to be dead or dying. While I actually have two or three such entries I have yet to enter from the last several weeks, I received so much e-mail on this one, I wanted to get it in as soon as possible.

From Mr. Thurrott:

How will Apple grow?
Geek.com: "I've been pondering Apple's future growth after Apple became debt-free on February 16. While CFO Fred Anderson and Corporate Controller Peter Oppenheimer look to make Apple into a US$10 billion company again, I wonder how they intend to get there with such a small percentage of the computer market. According to Gartner, PC vendors will ship 187 million units in 2004, up almost 14% from 2003. Looking at Apple's CPU sales--around 700,000 to 800,000 units a quarter, or just over three million units for the year--Apple won't gain much ground."

Umm..... they won't gain any ground, actually. If these numbers are true, they will continue to lose ground, as the company has done every year since Steve Jobs took over. Given the best-case for Apple (800,000 units a quarter, or 3.2 million units for the year), Apple will sell just 1.7 percent of all computers in 2004, compared to 1.88 percent for 2003. But that's the best case. It will certainly be lower.

"I'd like to see it take its old 'Think Different' slogan to heart and aggressively move forward to break from the debated 3% marketshare of computers."

There's no debate (indeed, Apple executives are still using the bogus 5 percent figure). Apple's market share is 1.88 percent today, and as your own math showed you, it will be 1.7 percent or lower in 2004. Why is this so hard for Mac advocates to understand? The Mac market is ending. Let's hope Apple has broader consumer electronics plans than just the iPod.
posted 3/5/2004 01:47:26 PM

You can read more at the Internet-Nexus (archive link). We also recommend the full Geek.com article.

It's true that Apple has a market share problem. According to preliminary numbers that TMO first reported, Apple's market share of new computers sold in the US declined .3% points in 2003 to 3.2% (global figures aren't available yet, but are likely to be close to what Mr. Thurrott states). Of course, this ignores the installed base aspect of the platform, where Apple does hold about 5% of the market. That's the number Apple likes to use, and the number that Mr. Thurrott conveniently ignores. Which number is relevant is up to you.

The fact is, however, that I agree with the Geek.com author; Apple needs to Think Different(ly) about market share, but is the Mac platform ending? Hardly. Apple is healthy, of course, and Mac developers seem to be healthy as well. In fact, we haven't seen as much interest in the Mac platform from vendors and readers alike since we started publishing (traffic at TMO has skyrocketed, as has advertising), and everybody is talking about Apple (obsessively so in the case of Paul Thurrott).

Apple may need to do something about the number of Macs walking out the door, but the platform is far, far from being in trouble. That leaves Paul Thurrott as merely one of many, many people who have been declaring Apple and/or the Mac dead for more than two decades.

I intend to get into this in more detail as soon as I can, but I believe that in most ways Apple is on the right path. Then again, I am a willfully optimistic person in general, and I thought that Apple's market share would jump in the last 6 months, but it hasn't. Still, Apple sells plenty of Macs to keep the platform alive and strong, even without a significant jump in sales.

The funny thing is that the line of lemmings gleefully declaring the end of the Mac are just as strong, even after so many years of being wrong.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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