When it comes to the total number of PCs and Smartphones shipped 2014-2016 neither Microsoft nor Apple have anything to crow about, with both seeing declines over the last three years.
Devices running a Microsoft OS in particular have seen steep declines over the last 5 years, with 350 million Windows PCs being sold in 2012, vs 260 million in 2016, according to Gartner’s estimates. The death of Windows Phone of course means that this is the primary measure of Microsoft’s OS shipments, while Apple is conversely reliant on the iPhone for their volume. Apple has also seen stagnation and year on year declines over the last few years, but unlike for Microsoft Gartner believes the iPhone 8 will turn things around for that company, finally pushing it ahead in terms of total number of device shipments.
Gartner expects Apple to ship 16 million more devices in 2017, and ultimately 28 million more devices by 2019.
|Microsoft Windows||Apple iOS+OSX|
“The global devices market is stagnating,” said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Wednesday. Mobile phone shipments are growing only in emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific markets, Atwal added, and noted that, “The PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline.”
Of course Apple overtaking Microsoft would only have symbolic significance. Google’s Android has long overtaken both, with devices running a Microsoft OS only 11.2% of the 2.3 billion devices shipped in 2016.
While Microsoft’s efforts to popularize Windows Phone has failed, it has not completely exited the market, and continues to push the OS, via OEMs, as an operating system for the enterprise. In addition Microsoft has started a new effort centered on VR and AR headsets and the internet of Things, though it is unclear of any of these would result in a volume of shipments which would make a material difference.
On the other hand Gartner’s bet on Apple arresting and ever reversing their decline in 2017 is rather reminiscent of IDC’s optimistic predictions for Windows Phone. It is likely that even Apple’s rumoured best efforts at a border-less, button-less, headphone-less smartphone would have already been eclipsed by other more popular OEMs such as Samsung, and Apple’s best days are over.
Unlike Apple however Microsoft has already largely diversified into an enterprise services company, and while a tear may be shed by Steve Ballmer if Apple does indeed overtake Microsoft shipments-wise, I suspect current CEO Satya Nadella would only see more customers for Office 365.