Journal: News & Comment

Thursday, January 30, 2003
# 5:53:00 PM:

Coming up on a billion

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I've written about personal computer market share before, but I sure wish I'd had these stats at the time. Interesting deductions:

  • As late as 1982, computers that had nothing to do with IBM, Apple, Atari, or Commodore still made up nearly half the market for PCs.
  • Within three years, they were all gone.
  • Also in 1982, the Apple II (279,000 sold) outsold the year-old IBM PC design (240,000 -- still roughly the size of the entire industry four years earlier). Atari sold more than both combined: 600,000 computers (and that's not counting videogame consoles).
  • It took three years after the Macintosh's introduction in 1984 before it outsold the Apple II, its predecessor. By then, IBM, Compaq, and other cloners were selling five times as much as both Apple designs combined.
  • Macintosh share of the market peaked in 1992, at 12%. Apple sold about 2.5 million machines that year (and Commodore had sold that number of Commodore 64s in 1984, 1985, and 1986!). A decade later Apple's Mac sales had increased 20%, to 3 million or so. But that represented less than 3% of the vastly expanded PC marketplace. Commodore was long bankrupt.
  • Apple has never sold more than 4.5 million computers in a year, which it did selling Macs in 1995. Other platform peaks include 1 million for the Apple II (1984), 1 million for Commodore's Amiga (1991), Atari's 600,000 (1984), the C64's 2.5 million (1984-86), and Radio Shack's TRS-80 at 300,000 (also in 1982).
  • IBM PC clones, whether running DOS, Windows, OS/2, Linux, or something else, peaked at 133.5 million units sold (and 97% market share) in 2000, the last year of the tech boom. They've dropped a bit since, but their share is nevertheless a fraction higher.
  • Apple's Macintosh designs remain the only other significant hardware platform in personal computers. (Operating systems -- not covered in the charts -- are diversifying a bit, with Linux coming up fast.)
  • In 2002, the personal computer industry sold about 50 times the number of machines as it did in 1982.
  • Pretty soon (in the next two or three years, maybe sooner), someone will sell the one billionth personal computer.


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