Pretty straigthforward, huh?
Not so much.
According to Apple in May 2006, there were about 15 million Mac OS X active users worldwide.
In March 2007, the number of Mac OS X users was estimated to be 22 million strong, according to analysts at Bank of America Securities. The Leopard release generated about 6 million more users.
From their 2008 10-K form, you can see that their total Mac unit sales (desktop and portable, no iPod, no iPhone) were:
2008………9.71 million units
2007………7.05 million units
2006………5.30 million units
Why I mention this? Well, there has been a steady increase of about 2 million unit sales in the last 2 years, so if this trend was to continue, we could expect 2009 to have about 11 million unit sales, 2010 to have about 13 million unit sales, and 2011 to have about 15 million unit sales. Of course, this is a very linear assumption but I find it hard to find any analyst willing to predict a growth number beyond 1 quarter ahead.
Therefore, the number of 22 million Mac users seems quite low.
Apple has sold about 10 million Macs in 2008, and nearly half to switchers from Windows (what they say in an earnings conference call).
So we can agree that 22 million Mac users worldwide is pretty low. Dave Zeiler from the Baltimore Sun wrote an interesting article about the number of Mac users back in 2002 and he told me that “I don’t think anyone really knows what the Mac installed base is. That 25 million number from 2002, I believe, was uttered by Steve Jobs himself. The most recent estimates I’ve seen place the current installed base for Mac OS X at 25 million, which seems impossible given the explosive growth in Mac sales in recent years. Perhaps Jobs was exaggerating in 2002. So I’d guess that by the end of 2008 the Mac installed base should be close to 30 million. But I’m guessing.”
Net Applications estimates Apple’s market share to be 8.87% for this November 2008. The question is: 8.87% of what? I wrote a couple e-mails to NetApplications and they replied: “The market share data is worldwide. The data is compiled from approximately 160 million visitors per month.The visitors are to a network of 40,000 websites.”
So if the world has about 6.6 billion people, that would mean 0.57 billion Mac users. Somehow I think that’s too high. I am trying to find how many people have access to a computer worldwide, maybe that would make more sense.
However, my boss at iLovePhotos found an interesting way to approach this problem: find the number of users for a must-have Mac application. The Mail app from Mac seems like a good choice (Finder would be even better!). Gabor Cselle from San Francisco wrote an interesting piece on the estimated number of users of popular e-mail applications and he estimated the number of Mail users to be around 50 million.
So, which answer do you think is more sensible to the “how many Mac users are there in the world?” question:
a) 25 million
b) 30 million
c) 50 million
d) 0.57 billion
e) none of the above