Thoughts on the Five Percent Nation

by David Parmet Mar 06, 2006

I go to a lot of conferences. It goes hand in hand with the whole media / marketing / web2.0 world I live in. We all get in planes and fly halfway across the planet to talk about blogging and life online when we could have done it all from the comfort of our own home offices (and in the comfort of our boxers).

I know us Mac users are supposed to be in the minority, but it seems like every conference I go to, I’m surrounded by other PowerBooks. These are creative, marketing types - some bloggers, some web developers, coders, ad people, bloggers, podcasters and the like. Sometimes all at the same time. Mainly the sort of people you see in Silicon Valley coffee shops honing their latest business plans.

In fact the only Windows machines I see at these conferences are used by people who either work for a big company that requires a Windows platform, or they work for Microsoft.

Thinking out loud yesterday at just such a conference I said, “if us Mac users are only five percent, it seems like it’s the five percent that shows up to these things.” To which someone added, “yeah, the right five percent.”

I got the flip side on the plane on the way home. The guy sitting in the row next to mine saw my PowerBook and snorted, “if Steve Jobs were smarter in the 1990’s they’d have a real share of the PC market.”

I had two responses*. First of all, considering his recent financial and business dealings, saying Steve Jobs is smart is an understatement. He’s a genius who now owns more of Disney than anyone since Walt himself. Talk about laughing all the way to the bank. And second of all, five percent of the world PC market is pretty good. In fact it’s better than good, it’s amazing. I’m sure just a sliver of the world’s PC market is worth billions.

The point is, don’t obsess over numbers. One, two or three percent in a global economy is a lot of boxes. And most important, don’t listen to people on planes.

*Actually I kept my mouth shut and pretended I couldn’t hear him. If you’ve been following along and read my review of the Etymotic 6i earphones, you’d know I don’t like to talk to people on planes.


  • cue…

    Benji had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Ha, gotta love all the naysayers. While the naysayers say nay we say yay.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 371
  • Nice article David, but I’m still confused with the statistics being accurate in market share since they are based on sales mainly. There is no doubt in anyones mind that mac users generally hold on to thier mac longer than PCers hold on to thier PCs. So just becase sales revenue state the percentage is five that does not account for actual users, as you seen in your meeting. Another thing to look at is the amount of sales that large businesses add to the pie and some are not even permitted for exteranl use outside of the everyday office environment. Yes as you stated with all the Powerbook owners within media business and ect. I would even bet that those books are individually owned and used for both business as well as pleasure. I would really like to see some more factual numbers. From what I have read and posted on other site forums on this topic, alot of responses are coming back with Apple more in the twelve to fifteen percent bracket of actual users. CHEERS to the MAC community.

    Macster2 had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 40
  • The point is, don’t obsess over numbers.

    There’s basically a post or two a day at least on every Mac fan site about market share, and either how there’s still an OS war going on or how market share doesn’t mean anything.  These people sure do seem to obsess over how we shouldn’t obsess over market share.

    But two things give lie to this comment:

    1) Mac users themselves and their obsession over OS market share.  And the reality distortion field is as strong as ever here.  Just like when discussing price of Macs, they love to start introducing magic numbers.  “If you don’t count the Windows users, Macs have much bigger share of the market.”  Or see Macster’s entire post above.


    2) The iPod.  Go to MDN and read any article at all about a competitor to the iPod.  You’ve never seen a bigger bunch of sore winners.  Every product with less market share than the iPod is labeled an “also-ran” that might as well give up on its feeble attempt at overthrowing the mighty iPod.  But strangely, each of those competitors has a bigger share of the market in mp3 players than the Mac does in computers.

    So either market share is reflection of the quality of the product and consumer choice, or its a manipulated and meaningless set of numbers that don’t tell you anything about the quality of the product.  And Apple drones hold both of these diametrically opposing views simultaneously, depending on which specific Apple product you’re discussing.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • There is a reason why people as the above poster post the way they do; it’s called overgeneralizing and it’s the result of a flaccid reasoning. “Apple drones” this; “apple drones” that. I’d love to see that kind of logic employed when talking about other groups of people—say racial minorities. Why? It would shine a spotlight on its utter foolishness and probably result in public scorning for years to come. But just to break it down a bit, not all Apple users think exactly the same. (Someone call the press!) Two, measuring computer ownership and iPod ownership are utterly dissimilar. Why? Because computer ownership includes large companies who almost invariably by Microsoft, and their purchasing and reasoning decisions are not the same thing as an individual choosing to buy a computer or not; the impact is far out of proportion to the amount of thought and consideration used. That is why the iPod market share is more useful and more indicative of the power of the free market for it reflects individual choosing. Or, to make it ridiculously simple: you have PC corporate “rollouts”. You don’t have corporate iPod “rollouts”. Now this is obvious to most, if not all, Apple users; we seem to have an ability to see right through Michael Moore-esque agitprop.

    Aurora77 had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 35
  • Mmm. Also, DAP buyers (&so; market share) are much more fickle than computer buyers, for various obvious reasons.

    Contrary to Beeb’s assertations, there are *reasons* to have hated opinions macs and market share.
    For instance, I believe macs are in certain specific ways superior to windows boxes because of their low market share. Not just in terms of freedom from malware etc, but because they have had to fight - hard - to survive at all.
    In fact, I’m not at all sure that I want the mac to increase its market share too much. If things become too easy, we lose something quintessential and important about apple.

    Benji had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 927
  • OK, I’m not trying to start any deep arguements or did I mean to with my post. On the other hand I don’t need a smack on the hands for posting to an article titled “Thoughts on the Five Percent Nation”.

    Beeblebrox, I’‘m far from being obsessed with numbers, my statement was to see some factual data besides sales to validate where market share even is. Time and time again I am reminded how Apple is the minority in the user bracket with MS controlling eighty five percent plus. All I want is to see is useful data not based on sales. Obsession would mean that all my time is occupied with one OS, when in fact I use multiples, wether it be OS X, Windows(of all flavors) and Linux.
    This being what I have always been told is a FREE country, freedom of speech, press, religeon and so on, I have a right to post as I feel as long as its related to the primary topic. Read the article again.

    Aurora77, as far as your statement concerning someone overgeneralizing a specific topic, its called being open minded. I would generally listen to anyones input and try to have a nonbiased opinion on any subject. Your suggestion of it being flaccid reasoning shows how much of a closed minded, one sided individual you may be.

    As far as using the word drone and Apple together in a sentence is about as absurd as you labeling anyone using an Apple computer as a drone. The last time I looked drone refers to someone not performing any work and living off the expense of others. I think Apple is very working hard and progressing well. And for myself, I manage to efficiently operate a small business and support a family of six not including a multiple asortment of pets.

    Bringing racial minority into the conversation is a perfect example of flaccid reasoning. Where did that come from, and maybe you should define or overgeneralize your example so we can understand that your not being bias. I think if the post goes beyond that statement then you may want to choose your words wisely or you will surely turn the spotlight on youself.

    This is not an attack, its nothing more than being open minded and exploring more than a one way avenue. That, in my opinion, is why overgeneralizing (as you call it) could benefit either party no matter what the subject may or may not be. As for the rest of your post I strongly agree with youur statements.

    Macster2 had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 40
  • But just to break it down a bit, not all Apple users think exactly the same.

    Ironically, you then proceed to make exactly the kind of argument I lay on Mac drones right after you complain that I shouldn’t assume all Mac users think alike.

    And for the record, I’m a Mac user and I do NOT have this aburdly hypocritical view of marketshare.  So clearly I was not generalizing ALL Apple users, which is why I singled out the Mac “drones.”  And I’m generalizing because I’m simply not going to list you all by name.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • For instance, I believe macs are in certain specific ways superior to windows boxes because of their low market share.

    Not sure how this contradicts my earlier post, but I don’t disagree with this assertion at all.

    It does, however, invoke yet another diametric view of market share from Mac fanatics, which is this obsession with gaining marketshare along with the view that small marketshare is actually a great thing.

    My personal view, which I’ve stated in other threads, is that for all the bluster about the next big product that will finally deliver Macs that elusive double-digit market share, I think most Mac fanatics actually don’t want this to happen.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Time and time again I am reminded how Apple is the minority in the user bracket with MS controlling eighty five percent plus. All I want is to see is useful data not based on sales.

    IMO, it would be to your benefit to stick with sales.  It may be true that the Mac’s marketshare would be benefit from numbers favoring an installed based, but it would also be hurt by them.  While it’s arguable that Mac owners keep their computers longer, it’s also true that Macs tend to be bought by existing Mac owners rather than “switchers.”

    I’d be willing to bet that the numbers more or less balance out compared to actual sales, and that either way, it wouldn’t affect a big picture of overall marketshare all that much.

    Neither, do I imagine, would excluding corporate sales.  I was discussing this with my sister, who’s fifteen and never worked for a corporation, about what she and her friends use.  Not one single one of them owns a Mac.

    As far as using the word drone and Apple together in a sentence is about as absurd as you labeling anyone using an Apple computer as a drone.

    I’m assuming this comment was directed at me, so I just wanted to say that I was not labeling all Mac users are “drones.”  There is that contigent of Mac fan, however, that certainly does qualify.  I’m using “drone” here in the coloquial sense, meaning, as you so helpfully described above, a “closed minded, one sided individual” who can’t seem to think for themselves and only manage to regurgitate Apple talking points.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Relax Beeblebrox and read my post, my target at you was only towards your statement with my obsession, which i really don’t feel I should be labeled with. Generalization and drones was towards Auurora77, my issues with yuou was one short paragraph. I agree with both of you on argueing over market share, its bull. Its just the title of the article we are posting too. I would like to see our commuunity remain small. ‘The larger the market share is the more likely it is to spoil, and we really don’‘t need to see a good thing go corrupt.

    Macster2 had this to say on Mar 06, 2006 Posts: 40
  • Apple! *gasp* You said apple! Macster said apple! He’s a MAC DRONE! Get him!

    Benji had this to say on Mar 07, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Apple… Never… Lies… Always… Best…

    But in all seriousness!

    I could care less about ANY companie’s maket share. I’m more concerned with what that companuy is doing and how much money they’re able to toy with. No one, except maybe some sort of proven, tried and true beneficial research group, should be allowed to weild as much money as, say, Time Warner, or Bill Gates. It’s absurd. There’s no need for it.

    I’m going to go off topic, and if you feel the need to respond, please don’t do so here! I believe our economy, here in the U.S. alone if not in the entire world, is totally screwed because things don’t actually change as they should. At one time, a computer programmer was an elite specialist. A minority. That known, he or she could argue that they deserved very good pay because of their knowledge and capabilities. Now, computer programmers (quality aside) are a dime a dozen, yet, to my knowledge, still expect to get payed a lot of money. How does this make sense? Supply and demand should factor into pay rates and employment in general. If there’s an ovewhelming supply, it can’t possibly be valued as high. Back on topic: If Apple gaining a larger market share meant producing computers in larger quanitites (almost assuring more hadrware problems), then they could potentially reduce prices. Would they? If Ferrari produced one hundred times the amount of cars they do, would they lower their prices? There’s a sort of mystique to high priced goods, as if spending more money means your getting something better. Oh, sure, it’s true a disturbing amount of the time, but not 100% of the time.

    I know a lot of Mac users. Most buy their Macs off of other Mac users. So, that said, most use old Macs. My newest Mac will be 4 years old this spring. But, I don’t see tons of Mac users. Granted, my job doesn’t permit such viewings, nor does my method of transportation. But, for San Francisco, a supposedly liberal, democratic, free thinking city, I sure see a lot of PC hardware. Hmm.

    I’ve never been to a computer conference. I’m not sure I could handle the people. Computer users tend to irk me, as do computers, iPods, the internet, etc… It’s all garbage. It really is. What were computers supposed to be? Tools. What have we tried to turn them into? Home entertainment system. That doesn’t help them solve scientific problems or track objects in space. No, that helps push DVD sales and make companies think it’s OK to strip us of our rights as consumers through things like DRM and ideas like trusted hardware. And the internet? Woo… What a dump. What a steaming, stinking dump it is. How much of the internet is of any use to the average person. I’ll put money on less than 1%. Let’s clean it up. It has such a huge impact on our lives. Maybe if an effort was made to reform the internet, we’d start reforming society. There’s a fun idea.

    When I think of a drone, I think of insects. Mindless workers intent on one (or more) given task(s). So, using that word to describe hopeless Mac Zealots who think Steve Jobs is god is A-OK with me. (My opinion on Steve Jobs? He makes mistakes and tries to make us think it’s OK.)

    I agree that a larger market share for Apple’s computers could be bad. I don’t neccessarily want more of the computer using world sharing my interests in computer hadrware. I can’t stand most people as is, I don’t want them coming up to me and saying, “Hey, I got a Mac. Let’s talk!” (That would obviously never happen, but play along with my rant here…)

    At the same time, couldn’t a larger market share be absolutely amazing? (You’re on your own to devise a reason why.)

    I’m a hardcore Mac guy, but I also only make $21,000 (USD) per year, so I can’t exactly keep up with the Jobses. Still, I love my Macs. I love OS X. I use Windows at work and, thankuflly, I don’t use it for much. Whenever I have to do more than type something up or surf the internet, I start to wish I was on a Mac. (To my delight, we use for our spreadsheet and word processor needs. I’d also like to take this moment to say Notepad is the worst application ever in its genre. Even the old SimpleText is vastly superior. At least SimpleText let you use MORE THAN ONE font size! AAAAH!)

    OK… I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but do you guys all realize the marketing genius of Apple removing the headphone remote from the 5G iPods? In order to change songs, you’re required to hold your iPod, most likely in a manner that allows people to see it. White earbuds can be taken for granted now, but seeing people cycling through their music and enjoying their iPods will make others go, “Hey, I want one!”

    Waa had this to say on Mar 08, 2006 Posts: 110
  • *breath*
    waa: bit random - but then, this is “thoughts on the 5% nation”.
    I’m not sure i’ve ever seen misanthropy and philanthropy combined quite like that…

    I think what I think about marketshare is this:
    If you looked really hard at the ways Microsoft has obtained its marketshare, and at the ways Apple has, you might find some salient differences.

    Then again, you might not. And who’s to say such a study could give useful results.

    However, my belief, as a Mac enthusiast based on relative subjective experience, is that Microsoft has earnt its great success through less ‘noble’ means than apple. Meaning that, very generally, I think apple’s success has been through a combination of innovation, attention-to-detail, “taste in a big way”, and passion, and Microsoft, by and large, by fantastically good business choice.

    Now I don’t think that Microsoft’s software products are all bad. I think there’s a lot of good in there and Wil Shipley agrees with me[1]. And I don’t think that Apple’s software or hardware products are all good - by any means, they aren’t and as Mike Evangelist notes there may be worrying signs of slipping quality standards[2].

    But, and take my children as slaves if this is an unreasable standpoint, I do think that Apple’s products are better than Microsoft’s. And I do think that for the most part they always have been. And I do think that, therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that Microsoft’s large market share is not entirely due to engineering merit.


    Benji had this to say on Mar 09, 2006 Posts: 927
  • I’ve just remembered that Douglas Adams once said “The Macintosh may only have 10% of the market, but it is clearly the top 10%.”

    He also apparently said this:
    “The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.”
    (Thanks to wikipedia.)
    tongue laugh

    Benji had this to say on Mar 09, 2006 Posts: 927
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