Of Apple and Windows: Gartner's OS forecast is useless

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 9, 2017
Updated • Jan 9, 2017

You have probably read about Gartner's latest forecast already which sees Apple shipping more combined devices than Microsoft / Windows in the year 2017 and the following years.

If you have not, you can read about the prediction on the Computerworld website. Basically, what Gartner forecasts is that Apple will ship more iOS and OSX devices in total than Windows devices in the years 2017, 2018 and 2019.

If you take the 2016 figures, which Gartner provides, you see Windows in second position with about 260 million devices shipped. Apple shipped only 248 million devices in total in the year and came in third. The statistic is dominated by Google Android which shipped on the majority of devices in 2016. To make this clearer, the 260 million Windows devices are 11% of the market.

Windows devices dropped in comparison to 2015, and so did Apple devices in 2016. Gartner forecasts that Apple will see a strong year 2017 with device shipments picking up again, while Windows shipments won't see much change in the coming years.

by Computerworld with Gartner data

The statistic is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it takes PC, 2-in-1, tablet and phone shipments and adds them all up together. This ensures that you get the biggest number possible, but it does not really tell you anything about how well an operating system does or will do.

If you would just look at individual device types, you'd see that the bulk of Apple's shipments falls into the iPhone category. For Windows, that is a dead category more or less.

The situation changes if you take PCs on the other hand. Apple is not doing really well in that category, while the bulk of Windows devices fall into that group.

Windows is doing well in the PC category first and foremost, and it is dominating it. Apple is obviously doing better than Windows in the mobile phone category as Windows is a no-show there.

Second, even if you ignore this issue, you may notice that the "total devices shipped" figure does not tell you anything about how well a company is doing. Apple is making more money from devices that it ships than Microsoft or other companies shipping Windows products.

Apple has been quite conservative when it comes to innovation and releasing products, and if the company does not change that, or change other metrics such as price, then I cannot see it recover from a decline in sales.

For Microsoft, there are also some uncertainties. First, what about Windows Phone? Will Microsoft release the rumored Surface Phone in 2017 to the public? I cannot see it capture much market share initially, unless it is really innovative or offers great value for its price.

Then, what about Windows 10? Microsoft's push to Windows 10 will continue obviously, but the company has yet to show how this will benefit the company financially. With 10% of Windows customers still on Windows XP, an operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting three years ago, it is clear that Microsoft will have a hard time convincing Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10.

Why? Because Windows 7 is probably as popular as Windows XP, and it is supported for another three years.

Lastly, the figures may not take into account the enthusiast market. PC users can build their own devices from scratch. While there are not any information on how big that part of the market is, it is probably something that one should not forget.

Closing Words

The forecast does not tell us much. It tells us that Gartner believes that Apple will ship more devices than all companies shipping Windows devices because Apple will recover from declining sales while Microsoft won't. That's the extend of the forecast.

I predict that Android device shipments will overshadow the combined Windows and Apple shipments, but that too does not tell us much that we don't know already either.

In the end, it does not really matter if Apple beats Windows or vice versa. Apple is doing well, even though it seems to be in decline, and Microsoft is also doing well.

Now You: What's your take on these stats?

Of Apple and Windows: Gartner's OS forecast is useless
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Of Apple and Windows: Gartner's OS forecast is useless
Gartner analysts forecast that Apple will take the second spot in the total devices shipped category from Windows in 2017.
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  1. Clairvaux said on January 10, 2017 at 3:25 am

    Dumping all devices together makes sense from an Internet terminal point of view. That’s what more and more people in the industry are interested about. I’m a desktop user, and I’ve seen big media sites being downgraded beyond recognition, obviously in order to fit the smartphone user’s screen.

  2. pete said on January 9, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Here are the numbers that count.

    Most recent quarter for Microsoft
    Net income was $3.1 billion

    Most recent quarter for Apple
    Net income was $7.8 billion

    i believe that says it all

    1. Tony said on January 10, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Only if you ignore profit. I hear Gartner is hiring; perhaps you could apply…

    2. Heimen Stoffels said on January 10, 2017 at 10:49 am

      I don’t believe that says it all. Just because one quarter went well for Apple compared to MS doesn’t say they’re recovering from declining sales because sales might decline again in Q1 for Apple and pick up for MS. So 4 quarters is what counts, in other words: all quarters combined.

  3. 420 said on January 9, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    I predict M$ will start “accidentally” screwing up windows 7 in order to make/force people off.

    1. lehnerus2000 said on January 10, 2017 at 1:27 am

      “I predict M$ will start “accidentally” screwing up windows 7 in order to make/force people off.”

      IMO, you should replace “start” with “continue”. :(

    2. T J said on January 10, 2017 at 12:07 am

      There is a very simple solution to MS screwing up Win 7. Don’t install any updates. Most of the “updates” which I have hidden are “fixes” for “fixes” for cocked up “fixes” for security problems. The “programmers” writing the code do not seem to communicate with each other and just fill the OS with spaghetti code. Spaghetti bolognese is nice to eat. Spaghetti code is rubbish.
      Why try to run a Desktop/Laptop using an OS which is designed for phones and notepads.
      UWP ? No thank you.

      1. Heimen Stoffels said on January 10, 2017 at 10:47 am

        And you think people will stop installing updates? Sure, people who read sites like this probably will but the majority of PC users, who are not as tech-savvy, will probably not know about the screw-up until *after* they’ve installed all of the updates.

  4. SuilAmhain said on January 9, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    In my experience, Gartner is what crappy middle/upper management use to justify the failed project for that thing that everybody else is already doing…

    In a random polling of me, I got 100% agreement with that statement. I expect it to stay 100% through QX, 20XX.

  5. Yuliya said on January 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Today I went to do the groceries, and I drove there in one car. Among other things, I purchased 10 oranges. 10 oranges. Can you imagine? And there were many other people purchasing oranges in bulk, and I doubt they own more than one car. By the looks of it, the orange market is completely crushing the car market. I mean, for every 10 oranges they barely manage to sell 1 car. I don’t even know why companies like VW, Mercedes or BMW are still in business, honestly. They should just sell everything and move towards selling oranges.

    That pretty much sums up the way I see these statistics of gartner’s.

    1. Don said on January 9, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      For me, a developer, comparing a phone and a PC is like comparing an orange and a car. But I no longer think most consumers feel that way. Most could get by with just a phone. Even the cost of a phone and PC is now comparable.

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