A (not so) simple question: How many Mac users are there in the world?

how many macs in the world

how many macs in the worldHow many Mac users are there in the world?

Pretty straigthforward, huh?

Not so much.

According to Apple in May 2006, there were about 15 million Mac OS X active users worldwide.

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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.

The well-respected research firm Gartner (after tweeting about them for a bit at http://twitter.com/idaconpts, now they are following me) estimated the installed Mac base at 25 million in 2007.

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

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What do you think?

Author: Damian Davila

Ideas and concepts from Damian Davila, Ecuatoriano thriving in Hawaii. Pro marketer and blogger. Find him at @idaconcpts on Twitter.

11 thoughts on “A (not so) simple question: How many Mac users are there in the world?”

  1. Update:

    After researching and researching, here is my conclusion:

    Everybody wants to play it safe by not contradicting the “official numbers” that Mac releases, which state that the user base of Mac should be around 30 million now. However, everybody agrees with the 8.78% market share number from NetApplications (even Forbes). So, a lot of my contacts have suggested to use that number and find out the number of PCs in the world (some people suggest only using the last 6 years, for some reason that I cannot really understand).

    Nonetheless, according to Forrester Research, the world should arrive to about 1 billion of PCs by the end of 2008.


    So using 1 billion PCs and a market share of 8.78%, I think that it would be safe to assume that the total number of Mac users should be around 87.8 million by the end of this year.

    What do you think?

  2. Well, the NetApplications numbers would give a market share of net connected Macs at about 14 million (160 million visitors * 8.87%). That would seem to be the most relevant number for your purposes if you are looking at the data for iLovePhotos.com. I would think that is a very low number as well based on the sales data above.

    The best number for net connected Macs would be available from Apple through their Apple Software Update. It would be easy to find out how many systems updated through that.

    Any number is going to be an estimate since there will be several overlapping groups that could result in double counting (Mac users who use PCs, Macs running something other than Mac OS, etc.)

  3. Hello Jason,

    Thank you for your feedback.

    The idea about tracking the Apple Software Update sounds really good, let me see what I can find out. Did you look up any data?

    Are you on Twitter? I can be found at @idaconcpts and my company Twitter is @ilovephotos (I spent way more time on the company one that on my personal one).



  4. You assume that all 6.6 billion people own a computer. The amount of people who access the internet is around 1,018,057,389 as of this summer.

    So your number of 0.57 billion, divided by 6.6 (just rounding), is 86,363,636 users, or 86 million. And NetApplications isn’t all that reliable, either.

    I think 86 million is a more reasonable number.

  5. Stealing “ideas” is far different than stealing someone’s developed & Patented technology. The UI of the Mac was an “idea” of HP PARC that was SOLD to Jobs in a primitive form just like Gates bought the system that became MS-DOS from Intergalactic Trading (no fooling look it up). Both were purchased in their raw state for $50,000 each. Gates built the Evil Empire on his purchase & Jobs built the Mac on his. Both had to do lots of their own engineering, time & capital into the finished product & deservedly had/have Patents on that TECHNOLOGY. Contrast this with Windoze, Andriod,etc which are COPIES of Apple Technology.

  6. I would think that 8.87% of visitors would be a percentage of the 160 million visitors per month – but that assumes things such as the 160 mil is unique visitors and that ALL Mac users visit at least one of those 40,000 websites in a given month.

    Yes Apple should have the best numbers of how many Macs have been sold – likely even a breakdown of how many would be abel to run OS X – or some particular version of OS X.

    If Apple collected some sort of serial number stamp or other unique identifier every time someone used the Apple Software Update function that might cover a huge percentage of Macs still alive. but would miss cases where one download is the served on a school network to 100 other machines for example – or one of my customers who had two iMacs that had not been updated in about 5 years (they have been now).

    So there may be no way to determine a real number – and if I have 5 Macs used by 4 people does that count as 5 or 4?

    Perhaps some sort of registry of Mac users – where each of us could go and post some small tidbit of info – but even that would likely miss a lot of folks.

  7. I’d say even 50 million is on the low end.
    Don’t forget that there is a very large community which run mac osx on a non-apple device.

    I’d say somewhere (rough est though) between the 50-100 million.

    Realize that there are also a lot of old MAC’s out there, as they go on much longer than the average windows based machine.

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