Android and Windows sell way more devices than Apple, but that's not as important as it sounds

Among the many noteworthy things Apple said during its Mac announcement-meets-apology earlier this week was the revelation that, according to Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller, the Mac’s total user base is nearing 100 million. That figure caught the eye of some onlookers, since it falls well short of its rival Windows operating system. More specifically, Microsoft said last September that it had 400 million users on Windows 10 alone.

Sounds pretty bad for Apple, right? Well, as this chart from Statista reminds us, market share isn’t the end-all, be-all for tech industry success. If you mix recent device shipment and spending figures from Gartner with Apple’s sales numbers in 2016, a familiar trend reasserts itself: The Cupertino company doesn’t have to sell the most devices to make the most money.

Roughly 11% of phones sold last year were iPhones, for instance, but Apple’s popularity in the high-end of the market — where it almost exclusively sits — was enough to capture more than a third of the phone industry’s total revenue. One analyst recently said the company took more than 90% of the industry’s profits last quarter beyond that.

In other words, it’s about quality more than quantity. The gap isn’t as dramatic with the Mac as it is with the iPhone and iPad, but the fact that it’s still worth roughly $US25 billion after years of fading relevance to Apple is impressive (and well above Microsoft’s competing Surface business). Still, just because the Mac is making money doesn’t mean it’s keeping customers happy — which is why Apple is promising to do better by its “pro” users from now on.

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