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Mac's Market Share and the Cascade Failure of Windows

Editorial - Mac's Market Share and the Cascade Failure of Windows

by , 2:20 PM EDT, July 3rd, 2008

Apple enthusiasts were delighted this week to hear that the market share of Mac OS X had leaped from about 6 percent to 8 percent in the last year. Vista fans have countered that Vista's market share has climbed from 4.5 percent to 16.1 percent in the same period obliterating Mac OS X. Is there some middle ground that represents anything really important?

Fact #1. Windows overall market share is declining when one adds Vista to XP. That's important to note. A good adoption rate for a long awaited new product like Vista, as a replacement for XP, means nothing if the combined market share is declining.

Fact #2. Apple is doing well and making boatloads of money. The sales pace of Macs is two to three times that of PCs. But because so many PCs are sold each year, a two percent gain by Apple in 12 months is nothing to brag about. That's because it'll take another 20 years for Apple's market share to equal Windows at that pace.

One way to look at the trend is to look at the basis of Windows compared to Mac OS X. Microsoft never bit the bullet and revamped the architecture of Windows as Apple did in going from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. The conclusion I draw from this is that Windows will be victimized by cascade failure. Market share will come to a tipping point where the linearity effects go away and exponential effects take control.

For example, when glass breaks under some kinds of steady pressures, it cracks, holds for a horrifying, linear moment, then breaks dramatically. The same goes for ground that gives way. We even see this in the environment. Global environmental effects that some had thought would happen linearly over the next 50 years are happening right now. One example is the sea lanes opening in the Arctic.

Cascade failure happens when a system is exposed to slow but steady forces. That slow but steady force is the technology Apple is applying in Snow Leopard against the relaxed attitude Microsoft has about the future of Windows combined with its increasingly untenable architecture.

I predict that the curves will start to change over the next decade under Mr. Ballmer's leadership. Mac OS X market share will reach an inflection point and depart the linear curve. The sudden erosion in Windows Market share will grow faster than Microsoft's technical and management abilities to stop it.

Looking at the technical pressures Apple is applying in the market place has to make one think that the cascade failure of Windows is what Apple is trying to achieve. And if I were a Windows apologist right now, I wouldn't be looking at Vista market share as a glowing indicator of Microsoft's strengths.

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