Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Secondhand Data

For the last two days, I’ve been bombarded with RSS feeds about a recent study from the NPD Group. According to the NPD Group’s report (and about a thousand blogs regurgitating the information), “Nearly 85 Percent of All Apple Households Also Own a Windows PC.” While this could certainly be possible, nobody seems to have seen the original report; they’ve just seen NPD’s resulting press release. it really makes me wonder how well the release reflects reality.

Let’s take my household, for example: I don’t think myself a Mac bigot, but at present, all of our functional computers happen to be Macs. Specifically, we currently own 11 computers: 10 Apple Macintoshes (ages 2-18), plus one partially assembled “white box” (read: generic) PC. The “white box” is one of my eternal projects and just sits in the closet; it doesn’t even have a motherboard or a hard drive at the moment, let alone an operating system. So that leaves us with the ten Macs. Here’s the OS breakdown, in numbers of installations:
  • Mac OS X v.10.6.1: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.5.8: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.4.11: one
  • Mac OS X Server v.10.3.9: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.3.9: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.2.8: three
  • Mac OS 9.2.2: five
  • Mac OS 8.6.1: one
  • Mac OS 8.1: one
  • Mac OS 7.5.5: one
  • Microsoft Windows XP: one
  • Microsoft Windows 98SE: one (although it doesn’t actually boot)
So let’s see: 18 OS installations, 10 Macs, 0 functional non-Macs. It sounds to me like we are not, at present, a “mixed” household. But what do the questions ask? If one of the questions were “Does your household contain a Windows-based PC,” I would have had to answer in the affirmative, despite the fact that I haven’t used Windows for anything in almost a year. Would my household thus be classified as “mixed”?

That brings me to a second, closely related question: what of households that do, technically, own a Microsoft-based, non-Apple computer, but they haven’t used it since God only knows when? My brother-in-law, for example, owns two Dells: a three-year-old laptop that died about a year ago, and a 7½-year-old desktop that gets turned on maybe twice a year. He also owns an iMac that gets daily use by all five members of his family. Does having two unused Windows-based PCs—one of which is completely inoperable—qualify his household as “mixed”?

I’ve emailed NPD with this question (and a link to this blog) and will be very interested to see the results.


  1. You don't think yourself a Mac bigot?!

  2. Actually, no, I don’t. I’ve met a lot of Mac bigots in my time, and they’re a pretty *ahem* interesting bunch.

    Mac bigots think Apple is perfect. They can’t even dream that Apple would ever do anything wrong, nor would they dream of using anything else. Mac bigots will spend hours trying to do something in Mac OS that can be done easily in Ms Windows, even if there’s a perfectly functional Windows box right there.

    Do I get ticked off when people make inaccurate statements about Macs and/or their OS, and refuse to be corrected? Sure, just like I get ticked off by any indefatigable ignorance. Do I prefer Apple computers to others? Definitely. It’s a more streamlined interface and just a nicer all-around experience. But am I a bigot? No, I don’t think so; I use the best tool for the job, and especially in my industry, that’s usually a Mac.

  3. So, I ready this a few days ago. Interesting stuff. Just wondering if you've heard back from NPD?

  4. Not a word. Perhaps opening their findings for peer review isn’t part of their business model?