The Computer Market: Taking Stock As Apple Props Up The US

I recently published a feature similar to this one analysing the tablet market. Specifically what it has done in the last year, and what we should look out for this year. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, check it out here. Over at our Facebook page, in response to that article one of you asked if we would take a look at the computer market.

I had no real understanding of it at the time, but now I do I am incredibly thankful I took the time to see what’s going on, because the numbers are worrying/encouraging/unbelievable depending on who you ask. I shall now endeavour to share my recent findings with you, hopefully at the end, you’ll tell us what you think.

A back story:

Back when our Managing Editor, Cam Bunton, was born, Apple’s Macintosh was only 2 months old. Introduced by chairman Steve Jobs back in January 1984 (Cam is practically a fossil), the Macintosh was a revolution, featuring a mouse and a graphic user interface.

Not like all those nerdy computers that operated on commands alone. Apple dominated for a while, then in the 90′s everyone jumped on the ‘Wintel’ bandwagon. Microsoft Windows and its main carriers, Dell, HP, Acer Group, Lenovo and Asus have dominated ever since. However it looks like the momentum might be shifting back towards Apple.

The numbers:

The numbers show shipments in 4Q11, representative market shares and the comparison to shipments in 4Q10 and their respective market shares too. The important number here is the last one. -5.9% is the growth of the computer industry over the last few years.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that because this number is a negative the computer market didn’t grow, it shrunk. Take note of Apple’s growth however. 20.7%. Apple’s US computer sales has seen a huge increase in the last year. Mac sales are even higher when you factor in the worldwide market because in 2011 60% of Mac sales were overseas.

The significance:

The decline of the US computer market isn’t that big of a deal though is it? Every market has its good and bad days. Before you make this assumption, its worth checking the figures once Apple have been removed from the equation.

Their incredible year is the only thing stopping the alarm bells from going off. Without Apple’s numbers, the computer market’s growth actually becomes a dismal -8.5% That -2.6% difference means everything is a whole lot worse than we first thought.

What next?

To summarise so far, Apple is slowly taking back the computer market. Or so it would seem, only time and numbers will tell us if Apple can actually return to dominate, or if they simply become more successful than in recent years, but still have to settle for second best.

What is clear is that the US computer market has seen it’s worst year since Y2K and the tech crisis of 2001. But here are a few things I think you should look out for in the coming year:

  1. Windows 8 – The next instalment of Microsoft Windows has us all in the grip of anticipation. A new metro interface, support for ARM processors, obvious tweaks to the inner workings of the software, and a software store… Where did they come up with that fantastic idea? (They stole it from Apple). There is however a tradition when it comes to Windows, namely that a great operating system is followed by a poor one. Windows 2000, awful. Windows XP, Immense. Windows Vista. Not enough superlatives to describe how poor that was. Windows 7, brilliant. Windows 8… Who knows. Hopefully we find out soon enough, provided the thing is ever released, Microsoft are running a little behind schedule, and some sceptics are backing them not to release before the holiday season.
  2. Security – Whilst Windows remains the most highly targeted operating system when it comes to viruses, malware, Trojan horses and the like, their reputation, along with sales will continue to decline as more and more successful attempts to undermine Windows’ security destroy the company’s reputation. How both Apple and their competitors tackle security in 2012 will be crucial to their success.
  3. Ivy Bridge – Intel’s latest CPU is just around the corner, and promises to be a game changer. 22nn Micro-architecture means that more transistors can be packed into a smaller space, and 3D transistors mean more surface area, so more efficiency and less power consumption. Expect these to radically shake up CPU performance by about 20% and GPU performance by around 30%.
  4. Ultrabooks – As we push for convenience and portability, the Ultrabook has become more and more relevant to society. Intel says we can expect around 75 ultrabooks to be released this year. Only one of these is the Macbook Air, which is odd, because the rest of them all look like Macbook Airs. Apple is definitely the leader when it comes to ultrabooks. A new Air is in the pipeline, and rumors are already circulating about lighter, thinner design, better battery life and Apple’s recent purchase of Anobit should see increased SSD performance and capacity, and those drives aren’t slow at the moment. Until someone mounts a serious challenge to the Macbook Air, Apple will dominate this niche, and I suspect this will come to contribute an ever increasing chunk of Apple’s profits in the computer industry.

So there you have it. The computer market as it stands, and what to look out for this year. The way I see it, Apple are on track for a very successful year.

But the Windows market is still in a very strong position, and if Bill Gates can get his act together, then this year should prove very interesting indeed. If I missed anything, post up below. Or if you have a different outlook, share! We’d love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *