Apple's surge in first-time MacBook buyers should worry the PC industry

Apple Surface Hp Logo
Apple Surface Hp Logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Like many tech companies this week, Apple posted better than expected quarterly results, thanks to a continued resurgence in computing needs. The company is doing well in all areas, especially in iPhone sales and its growing services business.

But the one worry spot — for Windows OEMs — is first-time buyers of the Mac is "just south of 50%" of new sales according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. That number is even higher in China.

There is considerable risk here for Windows PCs, especially since Apple is rumored to be launching a refreshed MacBook Pro later this year with an M2 processor. But there is some greater context, too, that suggests Apple still has a big hill to climb before it truly disrupts Windows PCs.

Apple and a rising tide

Apple Macbook Pro 2021 Dan

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Apple certainly did well for itself last quarter, pulling in $9.1 billion (vs. $6.86 billion estimated), up 70.1% year-over-year. Nearly half of those sales, according to Apple, were first-time buyers. Apple has a traditionally strong lock-in with its audience, so any sales of devices should be taken with a grain of salt. Many purchases are simply upgrades of existing Macs as the company has a very generous trade-in program.

But as Cook notes, over 40% being first-time buyers is significant, and it suggests the hype around its Apple M1 processor help fueled heightened interest. One could propose that consumers in the US may be put some of those pandemic stimulus checks to good use, but that does not explain the "more around two-thirds" number of first-time buyers in China.

Apple's growth in MacBooks is noteworthy, but the other 92% of the PC industry also saw increased adoption.

That said, the entire computing industry is seeing an unexpected uptick in sales. Microsoft reported 44% year-over-year growth in Windows 10 non-Pro licenses — a number that even surprised Microsoft. Redmond expects "mid-single-digit growth" for next quarter for Windows 10 too.

IDC's April quarterly estimate, including Chromebooks and tablets, approximates a 55.2% year-over-year increase in shipping products. Canalys, which does not include tablets, puts it at 55%. And Gartner, which excludes Chromebooks and iPads, pegs shipments of all PCs up 32% noting it is the "fastest year-over-year growth since Gartner began tracking the PC market in 2000." Removing desktop PCs from the equation and Gartner has laptops with a 49% increase in shipments over this time in 2020.

All that context is essential because, as Gartner estimates, Apple only has an 8% PC market share (up from 7.1% a year prior). Lenovo, HP, and Dell all add up to a staggering 63% (63.6% a year prior), with the rest of the pie going to Acer, ASUS, and "others," including Microsoft.

While a 70% increase year-over-year for Apple is significant, the 40% to 50% year-over-year for the other 92% of the market is also impressive. First-quarter PC vendor shipments hit nearly 70 million devices, of which Apple was only 5.5 million. Lenovo by itself shipped 17.5 million.

The Fear: MacBook momentum is growing

Apple Mbp 2020 Dan

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Apple is, in some ways, its own worst enemy when it comes to the MacBook. Sales have arguably been held back by some dumb moves over the years, which the company is now slowly rectifying.

To wit, some of the most significant drawbacks of a MacBook Pro include:

  1. Keyboards that broke a lot and had terrible low travel
  2. Touch Bar, which nearly everyone hates
  3. Removal of MagSafe
  4. No SD slot and overreliance on Type-C
  5. Thick bezels
  6. No touchscreen/non-convertible
  7. No 4G or 5G

Apple already fixed its terrible keyboards, but many of those will continue to be pain points.

However, Apple is rumored to be releasing new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros this year. The new designs reportedly ditch Touch Bar, bring back MagSafe, increase port options, and likely have thinner bezels in a smaller chassis.

Apple's continued fixing of the MacBook Pro line is going to be a massive headache to Windows OEMs.

Toss in an improved and faster M2 processor, and you have for many a return to Apple's pinnacle.

Windows 10 PCs will continue to ride the same growth as Apple. Still, it is also becoming increasingly clear that Apple's firm control over its processors, hardware, displays, and software is gaining momentum at a faster rate.

The real question for Apple is how much of that growth is sustainable? The same matter applies, of course, to the rest of the PC industry too.

So far, many analysts predicted a winding down of computer purchases, but that has not happened yet. A lot of the growth has to do with pent-up demand due to constrained laptop sales in early 2020 from supply issues. But it also now appears that there is a genuine resurgence in mobile computing. Indeed, Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft, observed (opens in new tab) that "Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren't slowing down. They're accelerating, and it's just the beginning."

I do believe we are entering a new era of mobile computing, which the market is reflecting. But how Intel, Qualcomm, and AMD respond to Apple's momentum is going to be a challenge.

Estimates suggest Apple still ships less than half of the #3 PC maker Dell, but it gets nearly all the mindshare. That effect could accelerate in 2021. Watch this space.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Very interesting take. <hand-wavy amateur analysis>
    We all have to respect that Apple is and has been #1 in marketing not just in the tech industry but in all consumer industries, period. (And that's not dismissing it all as PR hype, since marketing includes things like product design.) But I wonder who these first-time buyers are. (For example, are they all consumers, or does this include corporate purchases? Are the purchases concentrated in developing countries?) And I wonder if they'll still be buying PC's in the future. 2020 was very weird in a lot of ways. "Digital adoption" may be rising (that shouldn't surprise anyone), but I am not sure PC sales (including Macs) will keep up. I imagine a future where many people work from their tablets and other mobile devices using PC-style accessories, with Windows streamed securely to their devices. And while the best-paying jobs of the future will require a PC (a PC environment like Windows plus accessories like a half-decent keyboard and mouse and a large-enough screen or two), a ton of new jobs will be lower down in the services sector and would make best use of mobile devices (think people in sales). And if Apple continues to profitably focus on consumers (that's basically their whole game), and Microsoft on business services, then why would businesses ever choose Apple hardware except for a couple key niches? Seems like there's still lots of promise for mobile devices, but less so for devices like laptops. And this would be even more true for "what's a computer?" consumers.
    </hand-wavy amateur analysis>
  • I mean isn't this all because of covid? Virtually all electronic sales skyrocketed.
  • Maybe, but maybe not. The numbers clearly suggest that Apple's momentum is greater than that of general Windows laptops, especially in China. As I remark towards the end:
    The real question for Apple is how much of that growth is sustainable? The same matter applies, of course, to the rest of the PC industry too.
    Many had predicted a downturn in laptop sales should have already occurred. It hasn't. What happens in the next few quarters will be crucial.
  • I think the upturn in computer sales is likely due to people realizing it can be really frustrating to do some tasks on a phone. Just a few days ago my flight got changed and it was really frustrating to try and find a new flight on my little 6" cell phone screen. I never bought into the idea that eventually we would only have phones while desktops and laptops would become obsolete. People are also replacing their phones less often likely freeing up cash to replace very old computers.
  • 'People keeping phones longer, freeing up cash for replacing old computers' I'm with you on this one. It describes me and my own family pretty well, but I think it's pretty universal, actually; the last 10 years has seen a huge focus on a fast-paced development of the smartphone sector, but development seems now to have plateaued, and since we haven't seen the emergence of a new market (no AR yet), people are now looking to get their laptops and desktops up to date.
  • It isn't a question of sales, it's a question of market share. Sounds like Apple snagged a few points.
  • Covid brought gains to everyone. Laptops have been flying off the shelves also.
  • Is it though when? - 1. MacBooks still cost a grand. Millions of people can't afford that.
    2. Few businesses and even less Enterprises have ever used Apple made PCs. A threat maybe but not a very big one.
  • That's now. But give it time. In 2007 businesses issued blackberries to executives, in 2021 companies issue iPhones. Just because something has been a way doesn't mean it'll stay that way. Especially as the shift to platform-agnostic cloud solutions continues, I expect Macs and even Chromebooks to gain momentum compared to PCs. This is why Microsoft is building Windows 10X and their Cloud PC platform. For most people it's not really about Mac, Windows, and Chrome anymore; it's about Azure and AWS. The question is who offers the better hardware to get there? The new Macs are thin, fast, have great battery life, and look and feel great.
  • Fair point but you're not comparing like with like: Mac OS isn't suitable for most businesses is the hard reality no matter what Apple fans may say. Much easier to replace a phone than core email integration, business apps, remote access and a hundred other things Windows provides Apple have never built MacOS for. Businesses also buy Windows laptops in large part because buying in bulk is far cheaper than MacBooks. True but there's a tonne of legacy apps and services out there too. Also true but premium Windows laptops aren't so different companies would go with the much more expensive MacBooks, considering its not the thousand dollar laptops that are the big sellers. You get serious buying in bulk. Windows laptops are also all those things too to the average user, except for battery but Windows laptops can still manage 7-8 hours. I doubt they average consumer would be able to tell the difference between a Core i5 with 16GB and the M1 with 16GB. Maybe they would of its true apps open instantly.
  • Apple just has to drop the price of the current M1 Air or release a base MacBook with it for $599 and they will put a huge dent in Windows sales overnight. Things can change quickly if Apple somehow decides to enter the midrange market.
  • Except in the entire history of Apple they've never done that with their PCs. They're not interested in midrange laptops. As weird as that sounds when they are for iPhones and iPads. Besides no it won't. You're thinking like a consumer. Consumers purchases only make up a small amount of the volume of sales Dell, HP and Lenovo ship. They're significantly cheaper because A: They're cheaper B: They run Windows.
  • You explain what I mean by "somehow decides". I should have been more clear.
  • This article is old, but as apps shift to the cloud (and remote desktop), the device the end user is using won't matter as much
  • IBM is always the argument given, but it's the only one example people can give. True for those who're using the Cloud but Internet Explorer is still a thing. Thousands of companies have legacy desktop apps and services a decade after they probably shouldn't. Besides most IT departments aren't that bright, they'll see the initial cost and that's it.
  • buying in bulk <- there's another option tho. Subscription. Let Dell handle the disposal of the old machines.
    And you are right, Mac is inefficient for work...
  • I agree with your points. Let me give you context from India.
    Many companies are providing iphone to the employees and one of the biggest banks have shifted to chromebooks since everything is moved to cloud and they only require a browser for most tasks.
    My own company is thinking about moving to macs and has replaced it for American employees as a test.
    Reason, windows laptops have plethora of issues for end users which reduce their productivity. Even for normal consumers nowadays, Microsoft surface is almost as costly as MacBook, the only sales advantage is for lower price category however apple is targeting that with ipads which sold like hot cakes for students who are studying from home.
    Microsoft has to up their software and hardware game if they plan on staying on the top.
  • Good luck with that; I've yet to meet an IT-worker describing Chrome OS as anything but a security disaster, and MacOS as anything but maintenance hell...
  • Is Mac bug free? Why are devs calling Big Sur, Bug Sur?
    Mac also force update (my Alienwares, Surfaces, Xbox Handhelds, Dell workstation have never done that to me in the past decade tho) locking you away from work. Sometimes you have to hurry pause it in the next 60 seconds.
    Lack pro features that's for sure...
  • Dell XPS 9500 i9 64gb RAM 2TB HDD ($3500). A comparable MacBook Pro 16 ($4199). That price difference exists at every stratum.
  • *pulls up his armchair* It wouldn't surprise me if a large part of Apple's growth was from people that grew up on the iPad. Maybe the pandemic was their first chance to choose their own computer and Apple has been the brand they've relied on the most. It's so hard to get people to switch brands once they've decided that a particular company can be trusted. Personally, I don't care for macOS at all despite using it everyday at work. Here's an example from today. I had a spare Logitech trackball and decided to use it at work instead of home. Connected it to my Mac just fine. For unknown reasons, the functionality changes depending on what program I'm in. In Chrome, the back button works fine but it wouldn't work in Firefox. Whereas on my Surface, it works perfectly in all areas of the OS. People talk about the Apple ecosystem and how Apple products work so well together. However, what I like about Windows, and something I don't think Windows gets enough credit for, is that it's an ecosystem of ecosystems. I find it so easy to mix and match hardware with software without having to troubleshoot something like a back button not working. That said, I still very much see the appeal of the Apple ecosystem, because if you go all in with Apple, it works very well. I think a lot of people like the simplified approach of, "Buy it if it says Apple on the side." For some reason, Windows OEMs have just not been able to do this. There's no *obvious* connective tissue between your HP laptop, Samsung phone, and Surface tablet. There's no obvious chat program like iMessage. There's no obvious way to get SMS/MMS to sync. There's no store that has all the apps you want AND links all your purchases to one account. There's a lot that just says "not polished" on the Windows side. I don't like macOS because it feels limited... but a lot of people like feeling limited. I'm not sure what Microsoft can do to convince consumers that a Microsoft ecosystem can be just as convenient as an Apple ecosystem, but time is ticking. (I was also going to rant about how Microsoft seriously needs to revamp the Windows UI so it doesn't look so old and stale, but this is already long enough)
  • I think Microsoft now doing more work with android and Samsung will help close this gap with macs and iPhones. Biggets issues is apple is known for cool side. But eveyone I know who has used one for business has said the same thing. Windows is easer to use and never have issues with apps not working ect. If and it's a big If apple can get into the gaming market I think they could cause Microsoft an issue with home users. Until that I can see them having more sales but I don't ever see them taking over the pc.
  • Mix and match of different devices is where Apple disappoints me.
    I had bought Samsung Galaxy Active 2 in 2019, which worked very well with my year old Galaxy s9. Due to battery issues with S9, I decided to upgrade. During May 2020, iPhone SE 2020 was lot in news, and I had made my mind to use iOS this time. I settled for iPhone XR.
    Galaxy Active 2 works fine with iPhone, but still felt backwards with features which I get with Android device. Latest features, like Exercise Voice Guide redirection to phone if earphones are connected, latest Samsung Health features were missing when connected to iPhone.
    My watch is just a year old, I am in no mood to switch to Apple Watch, due two main reasons -
    1) I could easily use my Galaxy Active 2 for 1 or 2 more year(s) .
    2) If I buy Apple Watch, I would be stuck with iPhone till it becomes unusable. Even if my iPhone dies before, I will have to replace it with another iPhone. There is a lot of investment to TAKE advantage of Apple ecosystem.
  • If the M1 Macs are anything like the Intel Macs, then these first time buyers will be first time PC buyers in just over a year when the batteries expand and pop the case apart and will have sworn off Apple computer products forever after luckily escaping an explosive death.
  • Um this happened to the SurfaceBook 2. Microsoft replaced free.
  • The Surface Book 2 isn't really a widely purchased device among general PC customers. I have a Surface Book 1, it's fun for what it is, but most people who previously purchased a Mac and are looking to get a much better PC after realizing the failure of macOS are going to be looking at Dell XPS, Lenovo Thinkpad/Yoga, HP Envy, Razer, or even some of the recent MSI machines. None of those machines share the Mac (and Surface Book) design flaw of eventual and unavoidable battery swelling due to untalented engineers getting to make stupid decisions because it looks flashy.
  • I just bought a Mac Mini (intel w/32gb RAM), my first Mac Computer product ever. I want to see how it works. What THIS suggests to me is "utility creep." I am a windows user/fan thru and thru. I own an SP3, SP7, SurfaceGo, SurfaceBook 1, 2, 3, Surface Headphones, Surface Earbuds, Microsoft Band 1 & 2, every version of Windows Phone ever made. Here is my ANGST: Microsoft's FAILURE (COURIER) in the non-computer space made me buy an iPhone. Then an Apple Watch. Since I have an iPhone, I recently bought 8 AirTags to replace my Tiles, then a Mac Mini. Does this mean I'll move to Apple completely? No! My XPS 9500 with eGPU is still a super powerful data-crunching beast, but the money I spend on mobile "non-computer" products is increasingly going to Apple. As far as I can see, there is no business case for the Surface Duo, which came many years too late. There has to be one to make me give up my iPhone and watch and AirTags... What is my DREAM COMPUTER? A SurfaceBook with the innards of my XPS 9500 (i9, 64GB RAM, 2TB HDD) enough thunderbolt buses to run an eGPU. Mobility/Tablet/Power
  • Preach! Heck, I'd settle for universal adoption of TB4 for all Intel and AMD ATX/mATX and laptop formats. The eGPU solution is amazing value add compared to yesteryear's crippled, barely cooled, doom-to-fail mobile GPU solutions.
  • For me, the Surface Book is the ONLY Microsoft PC worth getting, everything else has a similar or better alternative to some degree. Here's my ideal Surface Book 4: - AMD Ryzen 5000 H35 (5, 7, 9) - The most direly needed upgrade
    - Nvidia RTX 3000 (3050, 3060, and 3070 Max-Q) / AMD's equivalent RDNA2 graphics.
    - USB 4 ports, HDMI 2.1, and SD reader UHD-3
    - 4K 60fps Webcam and far-field, quad Microphones
    - Factory-Calibrated miniLED or OLED Display, at the same resolution, with 120Hz+ variable refresh
    - MacBook Pro 13 and 16's Quality of Speakers
    - M.2 2280 PCIe 4.0 SSD, x2 on the 15"
    - Upgraded Pen that is actually suitable for professional Art work
  • Apple has definitely won the high end market segment of laptops. People who own an IPhone and IPad prefer Mac over PC. An M1 made Mac even more attractive. Windows OEM can do very little to change this situation.
  • This point is very important, high-end is what ultimately leads and changes the tech market in the end as it always has. It's simple economics, the benefits trickle down onto the low-end at a lower price, making it better off for consumers.
    It doesn't matter if Windows Laptops and Chromebooks are cheaper now, because when one day Apple's software + hardware sets the dominant industry standard and Apple suddenly decides to enter the mid-range and low-end market, it's game over.
  • Many wonderful points here, Apple wins on PR and coolness. Windows as an operating system has continue to evolve, merging new system while keeping legacy system intact. I agree Microsoft get very little appreciation for what it has done. Daniel listed off Mac's weakness over the years, which Apple fans and media have overlooked for years. There are people still complaining about issues they had when they used Windows 95 or other older issues they ran into like 30 years ago as reasons to choose Macs or PCs. Microsoft has continue to evolve the Windows to be modern but I also feel they need to invest in basic application for these new content creators. Microsoft does not have anything that competes with Apple imovie or garage band. Mac's became the creator laptops even before content creators became popular with artist and DJs in the beginning, which helped it become popular as these jobs became popular as well. For me I love Windows, it does everything but Microsoft does not win in coolness with many consumers so they continue to choose an expensive MAC over PC because of issue that happen 20 years ago.
  • High-end PCs are just as expensive, if not more, then a similar Mac. Surface devices are especially pricey and PCs can't compete with the performance of the M1.
  • The performance of the M1 isn't that big of a deal. It's not as if an x86 Surface is struggling to do things. Most of that is measuring intangible performance gains in light workloads. That Microsoft went so hard on the SPX as their high-end Surface (getting things like the new chassis and expandable storage slot before the Pro), only to see Qualcomm get slapped by Apple on the SoC front, really hurt. If they'd come around to a Surface Pro with modern port selection and Ryzen 5000, and maybe bring the price down a little, it would be much better for them. Throw the Surface Pen back in the box with the purchase (which most other OEMs are doing anyway), and the Surface Pro goes back to a mass-market leader in PCs, rather than an expensive niche offering for artists or people with a brand fetish. Man, if they'd swap out the Intel/Nvidia guts in the Surface Book for a harmonious AMD experience, that'd be awesome, and I wouldn't be surprised if having a single chip supplier managing the CPU and dock GPU helped with some of their driver issues.
  • To me the real issue is when the kcuf is Windows 10 going to be one consistent slick OS? I switched to Windows with 10 (after 3 decades with Apple) and although I like the hardware pricing and choice -- it's the OS, stupid.
  • Never. Microsoft refuses to cut legacy software out of Windows because that is all they have going for them. If you don't need legacy software and aren't a high end gamer, there isn't much reason to have a Windows PC in 2021.
  • I think you're on a different topic. I use LibreOffice. I'm not saying that software needs to look like Windows 10. I'm saying Windows 10 needs to look like Windows 10. And should have on day 1 of release. Why you Windows? Because in the Apple world most people can only manage one computer. A new iMac with M1 and 16GBs of RAM and 512 SSD storage is $1699-$1899 in the first two models. In the PC world you can get an Asus ExpertCenter with 12GBs of RAM (but expandable), 512 SSD (and expandable), the ability to play with internals, and get solid speeds out of the Intel 10th Gen for... $599. I don't care if it's M1 fast. I care if it's fast enough and with a silent fan. Yes and yes. I can add a 4K 32 monitor with a bajillion colors for $340. That means my 'iMac' is $60 shy of a grand. So I've saved say $800 over the M1 iMac. It sure would be crazy cool to buy a nice laptop with that savings. So that I don't have to commit to a desktop but also have the ability to take a PC with me here and there. So I grab myself a Lenovo Flex 5 14" 2-in-1 Laptop, 14.0" FHD (1920 x 1080) Touch Display, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Processor, 16GB DDR4, 256GB SSD, AMD Radeon Graphics, Digital Pen Included. Not the best or M1ist laptop there is. But it's not bad either. And I still have $171 to spend. I could put that into an extended warranty. Or a Mini PC for my TV. One like this Beelink X55 Mini PC, Windows 10 (64-bit) Intel Gemini Lake Pentium J5005 Processor(up to 2.8GHz) Desktop Computer,8GB LPDDR4 + 256GB SSD,Dual WiFi,Dual HDMI 2.0,Gigabit Ethernet,4K@60fps. To be honest I'd have to cough up some extra dough to pull that off. $20. Three PCs for the price of one iMac.
  • No, we are saying the same thing. Microsoft is limited in the changes they can make to Windows, like making it more consistent and light, because they have to cater to legacy software. I think that was what you were saying. I don't think a Mac Mini is very expensive. You could do that and a 4k monitor for much less than an iMac. Or you could waste $3500 on a Surface Studio and it's garbage specs.
  • Interesting stuff. The issues with the Mac Book Pro aren't really going to be bothering first time buyers. It's hard to know any other when you're buying your first computer. What we do know is that a large percentage of users have now never owned a computer before, and their only exposure to the internet has been via mobile devices.
    With that in mind, what are the options going forward? We basically have two viewpoints, from an Android or Apple user, as these are the only devices that are currently being widely used as mobile. Firstly, people are very brand loyal. It's super hard to get people to move brand in the first place. Even more so when their preferred brand has them locked into not only a platform ecosystem of apps, games, movies etc, but also hardware accessories that they've purchased. Even the core OS of the device is different to the point it troubles some users moving platforms. Remember, even though they've got a mobile device, it does not mean they're tech focused. Mobile devices are in the hands of millions of people because they're consumer (in the letteral sense) friendly devices. It makes sense that when looking to get laptop they go with what they know, what they're brand loyal to. For Apple iPhone users, that's pretty simple. You get a apple brand computer. The next logical step is to get what they already know - that's convenience of mobility and thus, a laptop.
    For Android users its a little harder, if you're brand loyal to Samsung and the Galaxy series, you're probably going to be edging towards a Samsung Chromebook. So where does that leave Microsoft and the PC? Unless you're business with windows use case, or a PC master race gamer, you're pretty much not going to enter the PC market going forward now. There really is no need for a home consumer or young adult to do so.
    There is 20 year olds now who've never had a Widows PC, no interest in one and are either now brand loyal and locked into Apple or an Android system.
    The best Microsoft could do at this point is try and office Windows as a service on the Xbox One via keyboard and mouse and offer up Windows experience before the kids are already outside the Windows sphere.
  • If you count all computers/smart devices, Apple already surpassed Microsoft and Google is 3x either of them. Microsoft is only in the game because they sell legacy machines. When you look at the total market, they are 3rd in sales and falling. How long will legacy "PC" devices stick around? Where will those sales be in 5 years? Will they still be relevant outside some remaining enterprise users? Can Microsoft modernize their offerings? So far that answer is no.
  • Agreed. Microsoft's modern relevance is from their past, not their present. People interact with Microsoft as a platform vendor, but they're really behind in that modern ecosystem push. As they try to modernize, they're trying to use Android to get back into mobile, which makes them a niche player in that market, at best. They can't get Windows 10X out the door, as Chromebooks gobble up the lower-end and the Neo is shelved to try to rectify the low-end offerings. They tried to step into ARM, but they're reliant on Qualcomm to make ARM-based PCs while their focus is mobile devices. Apple went the same route as always--developing a proper ecosystem that maxes out potential--and they're rewarded for it. Microsoft's gone from being the source of success for companies to being reliant on others to help them along, and those bets aren't working right now. It didn't work when the well of second-party content dried up on Xbox One, it didn't work with the SPX showed up badly by the M1 chip, and it's not worked with the bugginess of slamming together Android into a first-gen form factor. They're chugging along in enterprise and thriving off legacy revenue sources, but they're really struggling to find their footing in modern, consumer-facing markets. With as accessible as tech has become, that's a big problem because I think modern enterprise is going to continue to be increasingly influenced by consumer products. No longer are consumers getting PCs because it's what they had at work. Now, work's dishing out iPhones, something consumers are thoroughly used to and willing to embrace in the workplace. Microsoft's not on any kind of verge of failure or irrelevance, but I really think they need to do better in consumer markets to keep from seeing Apple eat away at consumer computing and avoid being pushed to a company that's really only big in enterprise markets.
  • If this is an attempt to look at failings in the PC market, I think Microsoft leads the charge. They've repositioned Surface to compete with Macbooks, primarily in price. This has made it easier for other PC OEMs to not operate with Surface (which sells at a premium) as a competitor to drive them forward. On top of that, embracing the old-school clamshell with the Surface Laptop (and, again, selling it at a premium) takes away the value of the touchscreen and inking and narrows the differences in usability between PC and Mac. With Microsoft pushing prices up in Surface, it also gives other PC OEMs a chance to do that as well. Nowadays, getting a premium laptop isn't much cheaper than a Macbook. PCs creep up in price, while Macbooks stay about the same, so it opens more doors for people to take a shot on a Macbook. That the M1 chip brings big performance gains moves the needle for Apple as well. That PC OEMs (especially including Microsoft) keep leaning on Intel's mediocre gains, leaving AMD to niche offerings with cut corners (such as crappy screens or bad memory/storage configurations) also hurts in the performance/spec comparisons. Seeing Microsoft try to make ARM computing a big deal with a so-so SPX experience, only for Apple to put it to shame with the M1 chip, doesn't help things either. PC OEMs have been as lazy and uninspiring of late as they were when Microsoft lit a fire under them and started the 2-in-1 movement with the Surface Pro. Now, Microsoft's not there to make PCs interesting in compelling. Instead, they're leading the charge of raising prices and barely improving the PC experience from what it was 5 years ago. The PC market's stagnated again, and Microsoft is part of the problem, not the solution. Apple's put out an exciting new chip that slaughters Qualcomm's ARM stuff for W10A, and we can't get OEMs to consistently offer AMD's CPUs in their best laptops, where having the best chips should be the goal. I know I'm sitting on a mediocre HP Envy that I don't particularly like because the upgrade options are so minimal and expensive. I'd buy a Surface Pro or Book with Ryzen 5000, but pass on a Surface Laptop and pass on more Intel-based offerings, and pass on the overpriced, sterilized path Microsoft has taken as a whole.
  • "The PC market's stagnated again"
    vs it is the "fastest year-over-year growth since Gartner began tracking the PC market in 2000." From Gartner: "Lenovo recorded a 42.3% year-over-year growth, the highest among the among top six vendors." That's a hell of a hill to climb to say things have stagnated after what Samsung announced this week and what's coming in the next few weeks. It's OK to admit that Windows PCs are exciting, doing well, while also saying they could be doing better.
  • 1. What IS coming in the next few weeks? 2. The point is Windows PCs are not exciting - improving some, but not exciting. As usual. Apple has sucked all of the oxygen out of the room again, and with WOA being such weak tea on Qualcomm processors, its unlikely to change anytime soon. If we were seeing "exciting" it would be a fanless i5 surface Pro X with 5g LTE and that little thing called a Thunderbolt 4 port, you know, the one that Microsoft is the ONLY OEM that can't seem to release...
  • Come on, let's be real here, the fact that a significant proportion of the World was suddenly stranded at home and had to get the equipment required for remote connectivity to the workplace drove up PC sales, we need to see what the numbers are like in the 21/22 financial year (maybe even 22/23). I'll be happy to be proven wrong when those numbers appear but given the fact I work in an industry that sells electronics, including laptop and desktop PC's, I'm also well aware why a lot of people bought computers in the last year.
  • "With Microsoft pushing prices up in Surface, it also gives other PC OEMs a chance to do that as well." Yes, this is similar to the point I made on a different article about the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Book Pro. All the best hardware is remaining exclusive to ultra books. What happened to smartphones needs to start happening to Windows. You can get a sub $700 phone with a high refresh screen and a snapdragon 888. That's a tremendous value when compared to the latest iPhone or Galaxy. But on Windows, if you want a high refresh screen and a top of the line processor, it's a thousand bucks minimum. And when new Intel/AMD chips are released, they'll remain exclusive to the newest batch of ultra books. None of those gains seem to be making their way down to a lower price bracket. The new iPad Pro has a M1 chip and that's amazing, but even the $329 regular iPad packs an amazing punch. It certainly beats the pants off the Surface Go 2's Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y, which is the only Windows tablet I can think of in that price bracket. And I get that Microsoft can't snap their fingers and make Intel drastically lower the price of their Core chips. But at some point, one of these chip makers will price themselves out of the market (maybe not completely out but definitely diminished market share). Right now my eyes are on Intel. After all, Apple has ditched them, AMD continues to eat their lunch, and Qualcomm is *trying* to break into the Windows market. Meanwhile, Intel is still charging nearly 300 bucks for the severely outdated Core M3. One of the biggest advantages to Windows was that you could get hardware equal to a Mac but at a much cheaper cost. That perception is gone now that the M1 exists. Whether that's true or not, tech bloggers definitely promote it as such and Best Buy salesmen are happy to repeat the same thing. So something in the Windows market needs to give. All this "OMG Iris Xe" hardware needs to find a home in the sub ultra book price range.
  • I do know there are more Mac's in the world today than yesteryear but look at the bigger picture. There are more people in the world today. People are living longer. The amount of people using computers is growing. The amount of tech companies starting are growing. All these percentages are going up. I honestly can't see in the distant future Apple taking a majority over the PC industry. Look at how many decades Apple has had better advertisement and how many times Microsoft has fallen hard on its face in the same time period. Has Apple taken a bite over the decades away from the PC industry, a nibble yes, but not a full course meal yet. Microsoft has given Apple every opportunity to take over the PC industry and yet hasn't. The M1 could be a big deal, but Intel/AMD I believe will answer to quickly for a major turn of events. Apple will get a few more nibbles and perhaps a bite, but this is like eating an elephant, it's going to take a long long time.
  • Only my opinion but both Microsoft and Apple should be more concerned with Chromebook than each other. I gravitate to Windows because that is what I used in school (80s & 90s). My wife used MAC in school (90s & 00s) and thus she still buys MAC today. Schools are over run with Chromebooks today. They are cheap, can run on limited specs and schools are buying enough of them so every student can have one. This is scary because when they grow up and they need a computer for home, they probably gravitate to Chromebooks. In no way am I saying they are better than Windows or MAC, they aren't today. But customers are creatures of habit. They will purchase what they know 9 out of 10 times. The business world is also rip for the taking. Businesses used to give out phones, now they are all switching to BYOD. Less cost for the business even if they reimburse you for service. This shift in cloud computing may have the same effect for PCs in 5 years or so. Businesses are using AWS, Azure, etc to run their organization and you can use any PC to access the needed ERP systems, reporting tools etc. You can see it now with things like Oracle, Adaptive, Blackline etc. I can log in from anywhere on anything to approve invoices, run reports, access financials and more. Chromebook and Windows are in a better position long run to adapt to this because you won't need expensive hardware like you used to. Apple doesn't compete in this price range and probably never will. The days of organizations purchasing 1000s of $2,000 PCs is about dead. You will have your exceptions but it won't be the norm. Chromebooks are about perfect for this. We don't want to admit it but with everything accessible from a web browser they just may end up being perfect for organizations. And business is where Microsoft makes their real money. Not from individuals who replace their PC or MAC once every 5, 6 or 10 years. I wouldn't worry about someone buying a MAC today. I'd worry about what Google may end up being tomorrow.
  • Just curious. in work space...
    Q: Can we shift away from Windows one person at a time?
    Q: Can we, human as a whole, shift everyone away from Windows in a single day (by dropping every knowhow, workflow, application, compatibility, tech support, co-dev we human ever built, with a flip of a switch)?
    Q: As a freshman, can you tell IT dept to "screw your Windows, I want a Chromebook"? If you are serious about running a business, how do you solve these issues with gSuite?
    Q: (apply to game studio) How do you upload excel files to your game server to config game contents / database?
    Q: How do you version control documents?
    Q: How to store docs in the on-site server or storage if your documents are classified?
    Q: What happens when internet or service is down?
    Q: If you have a freaking huge table (e.g. expanses, earning, revenue, etc sheets), can you group, collapse, expand cells with gSheets? It's a very useful feature during meetings.
  • Come back in 5 years and see how short-sighted your questions are. You sound like Ballmer talking about iPhone in 2007.
  • If my kids experiences with their school Chromebooks are anything to go by, what's being created is a generation of people who would never buy them, underpowered, slow, unreliable and can't run the games they want to play.
  • Both software and hardware are improving rapidly. Just look at Acer Spin 713, a $550 Chromebook that has the 3 most basic things today's kids need for school: a full desktop browser, good keyboard, and a good tablet form for digital note-taking. No need to buy a Windows Laptop + Android Tablet, or a MacBook + iPad for over $2,000, and if you need more pro-software, you can now run Linux on Chromebooks.
  • The answer is ARM processor
  • Apple lives in Daniel's head rent free. What else is everyone going to do with stimulus money? Buy the status symbol or go for the workhorse? People do irrational things with more money.
  • That's your refutation?
    "What else is everyone going to do with stimulus money? Buy the status symbol or go for the workhorse? People do irrational things with more money."
    Except that doesn't explain why 2/3 of new MacBook purchases in China were first-time buyers (much higher than in the US), which is something I mention. Unless you're articulating that China received stimulus checks and are also "irrational."
  • You are right what I said doesn't explain China. My comment didn't encompass China. Unless I am wrong that is not Apple's biggest market anyway. It is Apple's sixth biggest market. What is 2/3 of an insignificant number? Apple always has a surge with new product refreshes. Anyway clearly Apple is on your mind lately. Hopefully the keyboard on the Macbooks are fixed because the Chinese can be vocal about product (for lack of a better word) defects.
  • Good article, sir. Isn't the China market known for being status oriented? Isn't that why, for example, Cadillac does well in China? Since the iPhone is considered a status symbol in many countries, I would assume that the Mac would have a similar status. Also, just because the majority of Mac buyers in China are new users, that does not necessarily mean the majority of new users in China buy Macs.
  • If microsoft would quit changing things, things would be good. I run linux but every time I boot to win10 something has changed after some update.
  • Does Linux change nothing after each update?
  • I think Intel or MS should also advertise some pro tips, like win+up/down/left/right, and how you can jump to within second (if your GitHub is the 3rd tab of Edge 2nd window and your Edge is the 4th icon on your taskbar, you can win+4,4. ctrl+3). Things Mac doesn't have and can help you work more efficiently (like why Photoshop pros prefers keyboard shortcuts then dragging cursor all over places. Like why people choose to use ctrl+s to save their work). People in general like cool tricks I think. My colleagues often surprised how I can control Windows UI without mouse.
  • You think marketing to programmers is what Microsoft needs? lol
  • I think "you can't compile ipa without a Mac" is also 1 factor that affects the decision.
    For all I know, people who worked on Jenkins and Xcode all come to hate Apple or thinks Apple's software design is rrdiculous, but Mac is essential... And Mac also force update, isn't bug free, lack features...
  • Maybe Chinese are buying Mac M1 in bulk for their mining business?
  • No they don't. You can not upgrade your Mac as easily as you can not upgrade your Windows machine.
  • I am a Windows user since I have a PC in my home. Now, I'm interested in M1 Mac Mini which would be the best investment but before buying, I need some work relevant to Apple centric system because I want to utilize a single penny on expensive hardware.
  • Just bought the Intel i7 Mac Mini 32gb RAM arrives Tuesday
  • Great. Intel variant supports eGPU at least, for now. Didn't you check the M1 vs Intel comparison before buying?
  • I did. I wanted the maximum RAM.
  • You've a point but in case of M1, it's not true. I underestimated M1 with intel model then I watched this video This video will astonish you if you won't use an external GPU with intel version.
  • Ten years ago, as a consumer, I used a PC, WindowsPhone, Xbox Music, and streamed movies via my Xbox onto my TV. My ecosystem was based on Microsoft products and services. After Xbox Music failed to give me a family plan that was sorely needed in that product category, I moved to Spotify. Over time, as Microsoft disappeared from consumer products I moved to having an iPhone. Just yesterday I bought an Apple Watch from a retail store just 3 miles away. I am in the UK and, apart from London, Microsoft have never had a retail presence. It probably makes more sense to me to get Apple Music and an M1 MacBook now because of the product ecosystem and integration. I do have a family Office 365 account. In my professional life I am an Exchange Admin. Enterprise and business computing is where Microsoft makes all its money. In the consumer space where "personal computing" is now mobile there is a lot of choice. It's no surprise that consumers who have $1000 to spend on an iphone and more than that to spend on a PC are beginning to see the value of integration Apple have brought to their ecosystem. Advantages that can be sold in store and increasingly via ease of use. Ten years after using only Microsoft products and services at home the picture is quite different. I am a satisfied Apple customer. I am using more of their products and I can easily see buying a MacBook over a Surface. I can use Microsoft cloud services just as easily on a Mac. Part of the problem has been created by Microsoft. Once they left mobile phones they were reliant on others. They don't really talk about Windows very much. That's fine. Its a platform to get to their cloud services. Apple do talk about the Mac and if you join the Mac ecosystem it all works together,
  • That's what I like about Apple.
  • Lotta comments. I sense a long Dan rant coming in the next podcast
  • Nice article Dan. If Microsoft puts too much effort into moving Windows into the Cloud than I could see an issue with Macs taking over, but right now legacy is why Windows is here. I don't see a huge shift but its interesting to keep an eye on. Again nice article.
  • Not sure about other countries but in europe a lot of stores selling multi brands PCs where closed during covid lockdowns even when non essential stores where open because of there total surface or the fact they were implanted in big shopping malls while the smaller apple store were open or at least doing click and collects..I know my local one was even doing some business in front of the store with an army of geniuses armed with brand new iPad.
    So that might factor in that shift too.
    Anyway this pas 18 months numbers un many industries might not be the best metrics to go from going forward... not saying it's BS... but for my capital investments for exemple I'll be extra careful reading those... in any case I'm not too worried for either companies MSFT and apple have decades of profitable growth in front of them unless there is a radical paradigm shift in one of the sectors they are heavily invested.... so far there isn't one coming in the foreseeable future... then again who knows...