Good. Evil. Bratwurst.


Posted on by arlen

Jon Gruber writes, quoting Joe Wilcox (go ahead and read the story, but skip the comments as they devolve quickly into meaninglessness) on Apple sales figures.

The numbers look great, but the context of the initial report, and the lack of context in Gruber’s later spin, remind us of Mark Twain’s famous comment about statistics.

Let’s look into this: The Wilcox story says Apple has a 14% share of brick and mortar sales. Nice number, but there’s something missing. What percentage of Macs are sold in outlets other than B&M, and what percentage of PC’s are sold similarly? Speaking only for myself (a long-time Mac user who specs and builds both platforms for my clients) I can’t remember the last time I bought a Mac from anything other than a B&M outlet, nor can I remember the last time I bought a PC from a B&M outlet. I prefer to buy from a store with a presence in my area for later support, but if the cost differential is good enough, I’ll go online and support it myself.

From the further stats quoted, I suspect I’m far from alone in this. I suspect entry-level PC’s are mainly bought from the boxes, while the high-end machines are mainly bought online. There’s not enough discount on the low end to make me consider buying online, and the cost differential is too great on the high end to justify buying from the box. (In Apple’s case, the cost differentials at either end aren’t significant.)

The really depressing use of contextless statistics in Gruber’s piece is “So from 18 to 66 percent in two years — in what had seemed until very recently a relatively old and stable market.” This describes Apple’s marketshare change in the class of computers costing over $1000.

Why is it depressing? Because there’s no context establishing the size of that market in either year. For example if Apple sold 1000 machines both years, and the overall market niche went from 6000 to 1500, then Apple’s sales could be flat and still back up those statistics. Contrastingly, I could construct scenarios where the market niche remained steady and Apple’s sales in that niche went up by 400% or where the market niche went down even farther, and Apple’s sales would therefore be down.

I am absolutely certain that the niche “$1000+ computers” has shrunk over the last few years, and I would expect that shrinkage to be a large number. But there’s no information given about how big that number is.

What conclusions *can* be drawn from those numbers? That the Apple brand remains valuable, able to draw a premium price. But very little more than that. Without further context, we can’t even derive an estimation of whether the value is holding steady, growing, or falling.

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May 2008
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