Taking Back the Market

50 Million OS X Users and Counting

Tim Nash - 2008.12.16

With 11 million iPhone users and strong sales of the iPod touch reported in all markets (except Asia Pacific) in Apple's latest 10K filing, it is likely that there were around 20 million OS X users on those platforms at the end of September.

If the average life of a Mac is four years, there are over 25 million Macs in use, again not counting this quarter.

Mac OS Installed Base, 2004 to 2007
Mac OS Installed Base, 2004 to 2007

Based on out of stock reports after Cyber Monday at Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart, Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore says the iPod touch is selling well in a holiday season when retail sales are down and electronics are doing badly.

The iPhone has moved into new markets, and some of the partner networks are promoting it strongly. For example, Orange in France is offering iPhone packages from €99, and O2 in the UK lets you have a free iPhone if you spend £45 (about $60) per month.

The iPhone and iPod touch could reasonably achieve 10 million sales between them this quarter.

From Amazon and analyst reports of retail sales, Macs - particularly the new MacBooks - are also doing well. Sales from those should exceed 2.5 million units.

iPhone + iPod touch + Mac Sales

Over 50 million OS X devices in use by the end of 2008 looks highly likely - and with a good Christmas, 60 million may be possible. Obviously, quite a few users have both a Mac and an iPod touch or iPhone, Macs at work and at home, etc., but there are also families, schools, and computer labs with multiple users per Mac.

Rise of the Mac, 2001 to 2007While the quoted number of OS X users will depend on how Apple treats these factors, the number will be a huge leap from the Steve Jobs keynote at WWDC June 2007 when there were 15 million "Tiger" (Mac OS X 10.4) + 5 million "Panther" (10.3) + 2 million older Mac OS users. (Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" was released in October 2007.)

Impact of the Recession

The importance of this rapid expansion of the market is how it affects the future of programming. The world is in a recession, and the chances of a rapid recovery do not look good. This time, unlike in previous downturns, IT departments are likely to not add people or to downsize. It seems nobody wants to spend more on IT if it doesn't fix a business problem. This means programmers also will have problems finding work writing in-house programs for Windows.

When you take into account how well Vista has been received, unless Windows 7 offers significant cost saving advantages over XP, it will be adopted slowly by corporates. It is very likely XP will remain the corporate standard for years to come. So for a new programmer, it will be harder to find work in a Windows world that is seen to be contracting and not moving forward technologically.

Programming for OS X

Compare that to the OS X world, where stories of iPhone programmers earning $150 to $200 an hour are widespread and there are documented gold rush stories of earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single iPhone app.

Many will at least try out Cocoa, Apple's object-oriented application program environment. Enough will succeed for good apps to keep appearing in the App Store and on Macs - and keep OS X expanding.

In a recession, good news really stands out. A good app on the App Store can also work as a very effective calling card. It's cheap to put an app on the App Store and let companies you want to work for have a copy.

If Apple were to add a student app section to the App Store, it would raise both the visibility of the students and the schools they attend. The programmers of the student app of the quarter or month could receive free invitations to WWDC and possibly similar prizes to the best OS X student app already featured at WWDC. Increased visibility for the schools will increase the number and quality of Cocoa courses taught.

The rapidly increasing number of OS X users across iPhones, iPod touch, and Macs will lead to an increase in the number of Cocoa programmers. Cocoa will no longer be a backwater of object oriented programming.

And when more and more programmers realize that good programs can be put together more quickly in Cocoa than with their old tools, Apple will be able to take over sectors of the business market. LEM

Further Reading

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Tim Nash is a Director of WattWenn which has a new approach to scheduling the production of TV and movies to make the most of budgets. The views in this article are his own and are prejudiced from spending more years working for computer companies than he cares to remember.

Tim lives with his wife, her website on the area ariege.com, two daughters, a cat, and a dog in the French Pyrenees. He lapsed for a while after the Apple II, but became a Mac fan when his wife introduced him to the Macintosh IIsi. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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