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Why the Mac vs PC marketshare debate is outdated

In years past, tabulating computer marketshare was a simple task. Count how many Macs Apple sold in any given quarter and compare that to how many Windows PCs were sold during the same quarter.

The era of the smartphone, however, has fundamentally changed the way we should measure marketshare. The chart above, courtesy of Benedict Evans, shows what happens when we include iOS devices in the marketshare debate. The chart shows how the sale of Mac+iOS devices is now nearly on par with the sale of Windows+Windows Phone devices.

Any time a chart like this makes the rounds, it inspires a chorus of naysayers who stand up and say that such comparisons aren't fair. But I contend that compiling marketshare statistics while ignoring the immense popularity of the iPhone and the iPad paints an incomplete picture and wholly ignores the fact that the post-PC era has begun.

To wit, here is where Apple's revenue during its most recent quarter came from.

In the last quarter, iPhone and iPad sales together accounted for 76.9% of Apple's revenue. The Mac, once the star in Apple's product lineup, has since been relegated to the bench, accounting for just 11.1% of Apple's quarterly revenue.

That being the case, Mac vs PC marketshare is a largely outdated framework because the burgeoning post-PC world operates on a much grander scale than the traditional desktop/laptop market ever did. Consequently, when folks stand up and shout that lumping together iPad sales with Mac sales isn't fair, they're really missing the point.

As new products emerge and more profitable revenue streams take shape, the questions we ask have to adjust accordingly. For instance, we're no longer concerned about how the iPod is selling compared to other MP3 players because that discussion has since given way to more important and relevant comparisons.

Similarly, the traditional Mac vs. PC debate is nothing more than a relic of an era where one couldn't watch or listen to almost the entirety of all the music, TV, and movies ever put out in the history of human existence from a mobile device that can fit in your pocket.

So while you can put together a strict Mac sales vs PC sales chart, as many research firms tend to do, it's not very instructive in today's mobile-centric age.

Evans writes:

It's a pretty simply point: mobile is the next computing platform and it's a lot bigger than PCs in unit sales, so even the smaller player can overtake the total PC business.

By sales figures and revenue alone, the narrative has to shift away from the traditional Mac vs PC debate and encompass mobile devices. Keeping iPads out of the debate, for instance, results in an incomplete picture. Otherwise, we might as well still be examining iPod marketshare.

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