iPod: The Only Reason to Buy a Mac?

by Chris Seibold Nov 03, 2005

The iPod, few would disagree, is a major hit. Knowledgeable individuals are opining that this year the total number of iPods sold will near forty million. Competitors may be befuddled but to the digital audio buying public there only exist iPods and pieces of worthless junk. Fans and stockholders of Apple computer are understandably elated. At least most of them are, selling a ton of iPods isn’t enough for the people who fervently desire the Mac platform to shine.

These people want to see Macs move and believe that massive iPod sales will surely result in increased Mac sales. The notion that people who buy iPods will then by Macs has become known as the “Halo Effect’ and seemingly a day doesn’t pass where you don’t hear the magical “Halo Effect” mentioned. Which sets up an interesting scenario: The Mac is suddenly dependent on the iPod for its success or failure. No matter how “insanely great” OS X is the fortunes of the operating system are firmly tied, in the minds of some, to the success of the iPod.

Thinking about recent Mac sales there is every reason to believe that the iPod is exerting a powerful effect on the numbers of Macs sold. The notion isn’t surprising, when results are reported the Mac sales are always cast in the most positive possible light. Imagine that Mac sales were horrible for the first quarter of 2005. When the execs announce sales for the second quarter they note that sales were up 30% over the previous quarter without noting that the previous quarter featured a 35% drop in demand. Which is no big deal and no reason to criticize the Apple PR spinners, their job is to put Apple in the best light possible. They are also required to give out some hard data so at this point an examination of the data is in order.

Ah, what better method to illustrate quarter after quarter of results than our friend the graph? Probably many things but since a graph is handy let us take a look:

iPod sales

Mac Sales

It certainly seems like we are seeing some sort of halo effect, the bulges and dips seem to march together (one would expect the spikes in the Macs sold to actually lag behind the spikes in the iPods sold category but… whatever). Concrete proof of the iPod halo effect, yes? Let us not gallop too far ahead of ourselves at this point. While Macs are seemingly on the rise the longer view looks like this:

What we see here is a different story. Suddenly it isn’t so much that the success of the iMac is pushing up Mac sales rather that Mac sales are finally recovering from the change to OS X.

The notion that Mac sales are just now recovering from the switch from Classic to OS X may seem quaint to the tech minded among us, after all tech folks were using OS X as soon as possible, but it is likely the case. Broad acceptance comes much more slowly than acceptance by the technically elite. To cite one particularly salient example the local newspaper is a Mac shop and they are thinking they might make they change this summer. It may be worthwhile to remember that Macs didn’t boot to OS X exclusively until 2003. Presumably there are still OS 9 machines with a few months of AppleCare coverage left.

With this information in mind, we are left with two alternatives. We can choose to believe that the recent growth of the Mac is due to the unintentional beneficence of the iPod or we can surmise that the Mac is finally returning to Pre iPod levels of demand. Neither is a very palatable option. In the first case one shudders to think where Mac sales would be without the iPod and in the second case Mac fans aren’t seeing any actual growth they are only witnessing the completion of the switch to OS X. In actuality it a probably a little of both, the iPod has undoubtedly lured more than one person to the Mac and the switch to X, despite Steve’s seemingly earnest exhortations, took a bit longer than most people realized.



  • I still don’t understand how that will make any difference. Sales people can ALREADY say it runs Windows programs, with VPC.

    But that does make me wonder, actually… I can’t see them doing a dual booting Mac - people would still need to buy windows. However, when the Macs are Intel based, it would be very easy for Apple to put an in-built Windows emulator into OS X. I doubt I’m the first to realize this, but I’ve never seen anyone mention it before. It’s usually everyone speculating Macs will run Windows, rather than just Macs running Windows programs.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Nov 04, 2005 Posts: 299
  • Chris Seibold had this to say on Nov 04, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Ah. You always seem to think of everything, don’t you. And yes, you do owe me an email. C’mon, you know you want to.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Nov 04, 2005 Posts: 299
  • I’ve purchase several hundred iMacs since about 1997.  I was a middle school principal until 2000.  ha

    Any rate.  Probably like most here, I’ve used both Mac and Windows platforms.  I bought my first personal iMac 9/98.  I upgraded it until it woulnd’t upgrade anymore and that was to a OS IX.  I simply couldn’t do the things I wanted and decided to purchase the new iMac G5 12/04.  That fits in nicely with tht nomally curve in the 4th quarter.

    A side note.;  What a gas Garage Band is!!!

    I can safely say I’ve never had more people ask me how they can buy a Mac then in the past year.  As others have already stated, it’s cool looking, works like a dream, small and protable, and so easy to use.  I was pleasantly freaked when I first started it up.  Therefore, many of my friends and neighbors that would happen by this past year got a load of expose and other great gadgets that would eventually catch their eye.  “How can I do that on my Dell…”

    A friend of mine in Seattle just purchased a Power G5 Mac last week wrote and told me, “I don’t know how I’ve gotten along w/o a Mac all these years!”  He does extensive web work with photo, video and music feeds.

    I don’t mean to sound like an ad campaign.  I’m a retired educator/musician.  What I wanted when I got my new iMac G5 was something to write musi with and to upgrade my photographic cababilites.  I went with an iMac simply b/c I know it works and is so easy to use.

    Being able to record an entire orchestra with all the trimmings (rock, country, hip hop, etc.) in the privacy of my home office is something windows can’t come close to.  Especially when you talk about price and the size of my home office.  Also, my band which happens to be my 10 fingers, a M-Audio synth and a Sony mic, never complains when I have a rehearsal at short notice!

    What does this have to do with graphing iPods with Mac Computers?  While I haven’t purchased an iPod yet, I guess the next thing for me to purchase is an iPod so I can take my tunes with me in an ever shrinking world, instead of buring my CDs.  I must be interested enough or I wouldn’t have read your article.

    SirGeorge53 had this to say on Nov 06, 2005 Posts: 27
  • I wonder if we could convince all the schoolteachers in the world to buy Macs for the classrooms if it would change what people actually buy at home. I mean, theoretically that should be correct. Although I do remember using an Acorn computer in school! Haha.. I wonder if Acorn computers were just a british thing…

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Nov 07, 2005 Posts: 299
  • Go to the the site linked below and you will see how in the future Windows Applications may run on a Mac without Windows.


    mrhaz had this to say on Nov 09, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Why all this either/or? Is the increase due to a halo effect or not? Is due to this other thing or not? Methinks the halo effect is real. Does it account for the entire upturn? No. And, maybe unrelated to a halo effect, but still, apparently 1m windows users have switched. The first time ever apple stole market share from windows. Why? I bet the iPod is ONE reason, but not THE reason. Now I’ll go to bed.

    themotie had this to say on Nov 09, 2005 Posts: 1
  • And, maybe unrelated to a halo effect, but still, apparently 1m windows users have switched.

    Maybe.  Maybe not.  I read an article with the much-cited 1 million switches and found this:

    “If we assume that all of the growth in Mac shipments during the past three quarters resulted from Windows users purchasing a Mac, then purchases by Windows users exceeded one million.”

    Um, that’s a BIG assumption on which to rest such a claim and the real number is almost certainly lower.

    But then again, facts never did get in the way of a good PC vs Mac discussion.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 09, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Thanks for such a great post. I will be listing this in my monthly newsletter. Many thanks and i hope to help spread the word
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    Samuel had this to say on Sep 16, 2011 Posts: 26
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