Where Do We Draw The Line In Comparing Apple And Windows PC Sales And Market Share?

Like us, you may have run across a headline or two declaring that Apple has finally passed Microsoft. If you're a fan of Apple, bust out a bottle of Redd's or Angry Orchard and raise it up in a toast of the accomplishment. When you're finished, put the bottle aside, because the reports are muddy at best, though they do bring up the question what constitutes a "PC" these days.

Let's back up a second. What brings this is up is a headline by blogger and former NBC Universal strategy guy Benedict Evans which reads, "Apple Passes Microsoft." It's the type of headline that causes curiosity and therefore results in clicks. His report starts off like this:

"A symbolic moment, this: in Q4 2013 the number of computers sold by Apple was larger than the number of Windows PC s sold globally. If you add Windows Phone to the mix they're more or less exactly equal," Evans states.

Should tablets like the iPad be tallied when adding up "PC" sales?

Why would you add Windows Phone to the mix? Well, his claim that Apple PC sales trumped Windows PCs last quarter include iPhone, iPad, and even iPod touch sales, and of course Macs. It didn't take long for readers to fill the comments section with criticism, and we certainly find it quirky that he'd use that headline only to contradict himself in the opening paragraph -- throw Windows Phone into the mix and it's a dead heat. However, it does bring us back to our original question of what constitutes a PC.

Wikipedia (yes, we're citing Wikipedia) describes a PC (personal computer) as a "general-purpose computer, whose size, capabilities, and original sale price makes it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator."

Surface 2

The problem with defining a PC and then making comparisons is that the landscape is changing. Is the Surface a traditional PC (laptop) or a tablet? It's both, as are a number of recently released Windows devices. And speaking of tablets, should devices like the iPad be tallied alongside desktops and laptops? After all, market research firms are convinced that tablets are cannibalizing traditional PC sales, which means some users are buying them as primary devices to surf the web, check email, and play on social networks -- general-purpose stuff, in other words.

If we decide to include tablets, do we also include smartphones? What about game consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4? Even Google Glass has to enter the discussion, depending on where you want to the draw the line. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter beyond bragging rights, though it is a relatively new topic -- this wouldn't even be a discussion point as little as 10 years ago. In that regard, all we can do is tip our hat to technology and debate on.