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Microsoft’s OS supremacy over Apple to end in 2017

Gregg Keizer | Jan. 9, 2017
Gartner forecasts Windows device shipments will falter, then flatten; iOS and macOS will overtake, extend lead in 2018-19

Apple will steal a march on Microsoft this year when for the first time this century shipments of devices powered by its operating systems outnumber those running Windows, research firm Gartner said today.

In 2017, Apple's combination of iOS and macOS -- the former on iPhones and iPads, the latter on Macs -- will take second place from Windows on the devices shipped during the year. The gap between the two will widen in 2018 and 2019, with Apple ahead of Microsoft both years.

According to Gartner, which provided Computerworld with its latest device shipment forecast broken out by operating system, in 2016 Windows powered about 260 million devices of the 2.3 billion shipped during the year. Windows accounted for approximately 11.2% of the total devices, which overwhelmingly ran Google's Android.

Meanwhile, iOS and macOS -- the latter was formerly dubbed OS X -- sank to 248 million devices in 2016, a 10% drop from the year prior. The cause: Slackened sales of the iPhone, Apple's dominant device and biggest money maker.

Gartner predicted that iOS + macOS, unlike Windows, will recover in 2017. Apple's OSes will climb 8% to 268 million this year, add 3% in 2018 to reach 276 million, then increase another 3% in 2019, with that year's device shipment forecast at 285 million.

Windows will dip this year, then stagnate for the following two years.

Microsoft's operating system will power about 252 million devices shipped in 2017 -- the bulk of them personal computers -- for a year-over-year decline of 3%. Windows will account for 253 million devices in 2018 (for a near-zero growth rate) and 257 million devices in 2019 (an annual growth rate of 1.8%). The gap between Microsoft and Apple -- 12 million last year, with Microsoft atop -- will widen to 27 million by 2019, advantage Apple.

Gartner's forecast was another gloomy report on almost every device category, with shipments flat this year compared to last and growth not projected until 2018.

"The global devices market is stagnating," said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Wednesday. Mobile phone shipments are growing only in emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific markets, Atwal added, and noted that, "The PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline."

The PC industry's troubles have affected Microsoft most of all; Windows is almost entirely dependent on PC shipments, which have been stuck in a protracted slump. Future shipments were further hit when Microsoft walked away from the smartphone business last year.

Gartner pegged total shipments of PC-like devices at 268 million for 2016, a 7% contraction from the year before, and contrary to an October forecast, now says shipments would again decline in 2017, dropping 0.7% to 266 million. Circumstances will improve only marginally in the two years following, as shipments rise to 272 million in 2018 and 278 million in 2019. The new normal is a sub-300 million market.


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