Decision time

There seems to be a bit of disagreement over Vista’s launch and what it means for Mac market share.


According to Information Week, at least two analysts think it’s an opportunity for Apple.

“We think Vista is good for Apple,” ThinkEquity Partners financial analyst Jonathan Hoopes says in an e-mail. “As people upgrade their PCs, we expect them to increasingly consider the Mac alternative.”

That’s pretty much what the Macalope’s been saying. Vista forces many PC users into a buying decision.

But Paul Thurrott last week advised against such irrational exuberance.

In fact, there are reasons to believe that PC sales will grow dramatically in this very quarter because of Vista’s release. So it’s much more believable to think that Apple’s market share will actually be closer to 3 percent, or even less.


However, I’d argue that Vista is quite obviously a threat to Apple because it further closes the gap between Windows and OS X in the eyes of the world (and, in reality, Vista exceeds OS X in many areas). And one might make the argument that Vista is good enough to cause some Mac users to switch back to Windows.

Up? Down? It’s all so confusing! Who are you gonna trust?

Well, if you’re the Macalope (and you’re not)*, you’re going to trust Hoopes. Sure, Thurrott’s right that no one should count their chickens before they hatch but this isn’t poultry, it’s prediction.

Now, the Macalope’s been burned before and, while it’s tempting, he’s resisting the urge to put any stock in his own anecdotal evidence that his relatives, friends and acquaintances are increasingly asking him “Now, tell me about these ‘Macs’ again?”.

Why? Because he tends to hang out with remarkably charming, erudite, witty, intelligent and sexy people. In other words, even if they’re currently PC users, they already fit nicely into the Mac user demographic, so they’re probably not representative of the PC-using population as a whole.

That said, there’s no denying that Microsoft made a strategic error in giving itself five years to get Vista out the door. Now it’s coming back to it’s customers and saying “Hey! Remember me?! I sold you that OS you’re using five years ago? Yeah, well, I’ve got a new one now and you’re going to have to buy a new machine to run it but I’ve got this great wizard that will step you through all the different versions to help you pick which one is right for you!”

It’s hardly irrational to speculate that Microsoft might get a few doors slammed in its face.

The Macalope will do Thurrott the courtesy of not even replying to his speculation about users switching from the Mac to Vista.



* Or are you?!

  • I don’t think that Mac sales are going to go up with the release of Vista, but I think in two to three years we’re going to see a spike in Mac sales.

    Vista will be good for Mac market share in the long run, but only AFTER people buy Vista and refuse to buy another Microsoft product. Spending $300 all at once for an operating system is not something that people are going to do more than every five years.

    I might be a Mac user, but I barely remember spending the money I did on 10.4, or 10.3, or 10.2 or 10.1 or 10.0 or the 10.0 beta preview (that I remember as $25). But for some reason spending $300 on a new operating system seems like a significant amount of money for some reason. And I’ve spend hundreds more on my operating system between XP and Vista’s launches.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have potato gnocchi on the stove.

  • I’m going to place my bet on no market share change. Everything will even out. People (businesses and consumers) will buy more PCs cos of Vista, people will buy more Macs because of the joy, and it’ll be a big draw, as ever.

    Anyhoo, do we actually have any reliable sources for market share numbers?

  • ‘Lope,

    I wrote about this very thing right on over here. Good to see you cover it.

    I think the Mac *will* snag some increased marketshare as a result of Vista *combined with* Leopard. Already many, many people I know are thinking about a Mac, and they’re not smitten (I love that word) with Vista. I think Vista provides a decision point for people to evaluate where they want to go in terms of computing technology. And yes, most will stay with Windows, because they’re afraid to try anything different.

    Some, though, will move to Mac, and I think you’ll see a blip upwards.

    Last thing: PLEASE publish full RSS feeds. I hate partials.

    Thanks. Love the site.

    Jeff Ventura
    Graceful Flavor

  • Erik:

    I agree with Blattapus’ premise, but I think the impact will be felt sooner, rather than later. I know more than one Windows user who is ready to get off the roller coaster. IE 7 has been underwhelming, Vista annoyances seem to abound, and to many consumers the Vista/Tiger comparison makes Macs look good. People who have been sitting on the fence are likely going to see a one-two punch from Apple pretty soon, in the form of new hardware and Leopard.

    Of course Windows will continue to dominate, but I think the XP years were Microsoft’s high water mark for OS marketshare. Apple has been executing well year after year, exceeding expectations, Linux isn’t standing still, and normal everyday people now understand that Windows isn’t the only game in town.

  • something I forgot to mention is the Mac-heads that will purchase Vista eventually. How does my market share count if I have Apple hardware and run both Operating Systems. This is bound to gee confusing soon. Eventually I think market share won’t be considered but overall sales of operating systems.

  • Jeremy:


    Is there any other kind of gnocchi?

  • Quix:

    “in reality, Vista exceeds OS X in many areas”

    Yes, that Flip-3D thingy just blows Exposé away! And the blue glass Start button, it’s just so much more glassy and vibrant than the blue glass buttons Apple has been using in OS X for FIVE YEARS NOW! 😐

    Perhaps things will make more sense if we make the necessary translation:

    “In Paul Thurrott’s Microsoft-based reality, Vista exceeds OS X in many areas. Now please visit WinSuperSite.”

    There. Much more coherent.

  • I have a bright shiny new quarter that says Apple’s quarterly report in a few weeks is scary good when it comes to Mac sales. I’m betting on a 30% increase over the same quarter last year. But so what?

    Here’s a question: How many copies of Tiger will be sold stand-alone to be installed on 3- to 5-year old Macs? Compare the same parameter for Vista.

    The whole market share “thing” is about planned obsolescence. A three-year old Dell isn’t going to run Vista at all. You’ll have to buy a new machine to run it. My four-year old G5 will run Tiger, I’m betting. It might be a hair slower, or struggle with some of the really processor-intensive features, but it will run.

    Market share is one of those terms that kind of baffles me, anyway — especially when you’re talking about Mac vs. PC. It’s makes me think of judges earnestly discussing the cooks’ aprons at a chili cook-off. It just doesn’t measure anything useful for users. What matters is how the chili tastes, or in the case of Mac vs. PC, the quality of the user experience.

    Mac wins. Game. Set. Match.

  • i don’t think there is a significant market share change on the horizon *because* of vista’s release. saying that there’s a change on the horizon *because* of vista implies that if MS had instead held onto XP as it’s OS for the next 3 years, there would not be any marketshare change. the majority of computer users are not going to put vista on an existing PC at a cost of $200 to $300, and the majority of users are also not going to buy a new computer just because they jus’ gotta have the vista. they’re going to keep using their xp computer they bought sometime within the last 3 or 4 years until something goes terribly wrong or they can’t run the latest itunes update at a reasonable speed, and then they’ll think about buying a new computer. then they’ll look around. apple has been advertising a lot recently. more than anytime in recent memory. the “i’m a mac, i’m a pc” ads are much more prevalent than the last major mac ad push, which was the switcher campaign. so maybe people will consider macs. but not *because* the dell computers have vista rather than XP. if they still had XP, people would be considering macs too, but it’s because the mac is more visible now than it was three or four or five years ago not because vista sucks (i don’t know if vista sucks; i haven’t used it).

    lots of people will have to buy new computers eventually. some will look around, and some of them will end up with macs. but lots will also buy their new computer the same way they bought their last one, not because they’re lemmings or microsoft loyalists, but because they just want a computer, and if you’ve done something before, it’s easier to just do it again than to go to a different store or website to buy your new computer.

    there will be some who switch to mac in the process of buying a new computer i’m sure, but it won’t be because of vista, it’ll be because they need a new computer, and the mac is more visible than it once was. i think the marketshare shift will be noticeable but likely quite small. i think it’s already happening.

  • Blain:

    Of course, me being completely biased, but I think, even if market share numbers match Thurrott’s predictions (Which, is amusing in and of itself. Remember when we cheered getting UP to 3% share?) it will be a pyrrhic victory for wintels.

    One easy thing to forget is how short-lived PC manufacturers are. Remember Compaq? IBM? Gateway? Toshiba? Tandy? Epson Computers? Packard Bell?

    Yes, they still exist, but they’ve either quit the PC market, merged to survive, make a sliver of Apple’s net income, or otherwise have had their day in the sun, never to shine again. The problem is like FSJ said, “[They’ve] won the race to the bottom.” It’s the, xBox, AOL, race for market share, at any cost.

  • I’ll tell ya what. It was the eminent release of Vista that ultimately convinced me to switch to Macintosh and OS X.

    Mind you, the version of Vista I was looking at was Beta 2, but that was really all it took. I saw that the OS still had pretty much all the problems that XP had as far as users installing software on it goes and ultimately, Vista was just a glorified XP update with fancy graphics and hardware requirements that meant that only 2 of the 5 Windows boxes in my house would actually be able to run.

    I’m still going to be updating to Vista at some point in time, when a game I want to play requires it, but until then, I’m going to blissfully plod right along and enjoy ever second I have with OS X and my Mac Pro. 🙂

  • John Muir:

    Quite right Dave M. In fact, I think what it’s easy to overlook is that there are different camps in the Windows world, and Vista affects them in different ways:

    to name but a few…
    – Homebuilders / gaming hobbyists
    – Corporations and institutions
    – Mom ‘n Pop looking for a computer for the interweb

    The vital thing to remember is that these are very different populations, and their needs will make them react in distinct ways. I know enough people still on Windows (I’m in Britain, it’s an uphill fight here) to provide a simple rundown of how I expect things to go:

    – Some homebuilders, I know ONE in total, will buy Vista itself. My friend proceeded to install the latest MS Flight Sim, was shocked and awed by how slow it was, and downgraded back to XP which he’d kept on a different hard drive. Not a happy customer! But he’s not switching – yet – either. Because he loves swapping graphics cards so much and is wedded to DirectX gaming. Many more hobbyists will pirate Vista like they’ve run “Corporate XP” for the last five years, and I hear it’s trivial to do. And some more will wait until OEM licences from new computers turn up on eBay and so on, probably only switching “by Service Pack One” as seems to be the general advice. There are a few from this group who have switched, the gaming webcomic duo at Penny Arcade are one high profile example, as the Intel transition has opened many a geek’s eyes to the Mac, especially with Boot Camp and Parallels. But they remain an interesting but small group.

    – Corporations and institutions are NOT in a hurry to upgrade to a new platform, whether it be Vista or the Mac. They typically hold out for ages, and we all know some still use Windows 2000 or even older, albeit on newer machines. Tough nut to crack. Apple are showing signs of taking them seriously, as people’s work machines often dictate their choice in home machines, but there’s a long way to go.

    – Non-technical home users are actually what’s really in question right now. Vista is NOT something many of them are going to buy from a shelf. Good lord: installing your own operating system!? These people, and they exist in vast numbers, use a computer with the software that came on it from purchase to dumpster. Some are “lucky” enough to have technical relatives (children) who will upgrade their software occasionally and may even be able to clear some of the spyware from their drowning computer. But in all, how it works for general users is that they buy a machine when they feel they can’t get their tasks done any more. If MS weren’t trying to push Vista on the world, this next computer would likely be another XP machine because these users also fear change. But it’s going to have to be Vista now! And this is the opportunity. Their current XP rig is going to die a Gator Corp. death sooner or later and it’s a choice then between a dozen different flavours of Vista machine, or that other thing they’ve seen in commercials and almost comes over as humane. Now, most of these people will not switch. It is a fair leap for a technical user, and you have to scale that up for all those who barely grasp such concepts as “internet explorer != the internet”. My point is that *some* of them will. And they’ve been herded up into a nice peak by Microsoft. I expect their effect to be felt during the next 2 years, as that is pretty much the life expectancy of their current XP SP2 boxen without some serious techie TLC.

    So in conclusion, it’s a complex picture out there. I’ve used knowingly coarse stereotypes of users, stirred in many an anecdote, and let it to simmer over a flame of Leopard expectation. But you get the idea. Vista is having a hard time “wowing” anyone, anywhere, on anything less than Ballmer’s salary. I used the betas and release candidates for a while on my old box and can see why. By leaving XP out for so long, MS have essentially created the perfect environment for utter disinterest in their new wares. XP is “good enough” so long as all you expect from a computer is clunky functionality which slips away in proportion to the amount of malware it attracts like a magnet covered in pesky iron filings. Geeks can Spybot and Adaware and a hundred other things, as much as they want, and keep their systems in a hard fought neutral state. But every Mac user I know has all the benefits, with none of the work! Comparing like with like is a troublesome task when MS deliver oranges to compare with our Apples… Anyway, if MS had wanted my advice, they’d increase Vista appeal by artificially tying Office 2007 to it. As is, I can run mine just fine on my old computer’s XP licence, safely in sweet Parallels.

    As for Mac people switching back to Windows. The last time I heard any such thing was when Apple were going through their mid-90’s doldrums and Windows actually had a technical lead as unimaginary as multitasking. Gimme a break!

  • Karl von L.:

    Rip Ragged:

    I assume you mean Leopard. Tiger’s been out for 2 years now.

  • Christine:

    And one might make the argument that Vista is good enough to cause some Mac users to switch back to Windows.

    There are no words…the really sad thing is he seems to actually believe this. Sad, delusional little man.

  • >Jeremy said:
    >Is there any other kind of gnocchi?

    Yes there are different kinds of gnocchi. 😉

  • Karl,

    You are absolutely correct. Leopard is what I meant. I always get the cats mixed up. 10.5 is the next one, right? I’m okay with numbers. Maybe I should stick to math. I hate cats anyway. I liked the OS naming back when it was all about butthead astronomers.

  • DDA:

    “Because he tends to hang out with remarkably charming, erudite, whitty, intelligent and sexy people.”

    As much as I agree with the Macalope’s analysis of the marketshare argument, I have to point out that “whitty” isn’t in my dictionary; unfortunately, the closest match it gave started with “s.”

  • I wandered over to the Dell kiosk the other day and 2/3 of the computers were running XP. That has to tell you how the WOW is going in the real world.

    I kicked the tires of the new Vista machine. They used a very dark theme on it; in retrospect it reminded me of Redmond weather. Perhaps that is because the weather “gadget” on the demo machine still showing the weather at Microsoft’s HQ.

    Now, I’m a mere 3,000 miles away from Redmond, so Redmond weather doesn’t interest me a lot. And since there was no internet connection there, the weather couldn’t be updated anyway. It was, of course, cloudy with rain, because that’s Redmond’s weather for you.

    Not a good start for Dell.

    So I played around with the machine, and noticed something interesting. The translucent effects are simulated by blurring the image below the window. As an added bonus, even when there is no window on top, the window title is blurred so much it was difficult to read.

    I compared this to the XP machine next to it. It was easy to read both window titles on the XP machine.

    Over in the Apple store I tried the same thing and although the text was slightly blurred on the inactive window, it was still easy to read.

    I can only conclude that after you’ve recovered from the WOW! of the Vista look, you’ll find it less usable than XP, which in my view should be a huge embarassment for Microsoft.


  • Thank you, DDA. It’s been fixed.

Leave a Comment