The word “market share” is a big deal in technology in the Post PC era. Hence, the reason I’m sharing this excellent article (at least I think so) on market share with you. In his article for the The Guardian, Charles Arthur explores the facts and myths market share in the Post PC era.
Fine. But look, I saw some figures which said that last year Apple’s market share in tablets was 50%, and now it’s 30%. So Apple’s selling fewer tablets, right?
No, that’s not what that data tells you. What if the total number of tablets being sold has doubled? If last year there were 100m tablets sold in total, and this year 200m, then last year the figures would be 50m tablets and this year 60m. (Those aren’t the numbers. They’re just for illustration.)
So if you don’t have the absolute numbers, you don’t know what’s happening. Those sort of year-to-year comparisons can be helpful to visualise changes in the market landscape, but in fast-changing markets it’s not enough just to quote a single number. In some ways it obscures more than it reveals.
Charles Arthur further drives home his point by highlighting the following:
Here’s an example, from YouGov in 2013, which showed . Its share of the installed base had fallen, YouGov said, from 73% to 63% (note that unusually, this was an “installed base share”, not a “sales market share”)
And yet putting in the figures for how many units were bought showed that Apple had increased its installed base and increased its lead in that installed base. That’s counterintuitive. Yet it emerges directly from the calculation: the iPad installed base had gone from 2m to 5.3m; it had gone from having 0.6m more tablets than all its rivals combined, to having 3.1m more.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be more non-iPad tablets than iPads at some point. But it does mean that you need to enquire more carefully about absolute numbers when you’re presented with the word “share”. It’s absolute numbers that tend to matter.