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Amaze Your Friends: Datamine Unlimited Statistical Nonsense

In today’s Techflash Research post, Todd Bishop wonders why it is that Seattle is only #14 as a “Mac Metropolis.”  (The catchy term is used in the report summary that Bishop links, and it is hard to resist repeating even if that is not what the report is about.)

First off, the Apple Market Ranker analysis that Experian Simmons summarizes is about owners of Apple products, not Macs.  The basic question is, if you scratch a resident of one of the 206 Designated Market Areas (DMAs – don’t you just love being sliced and diced by market analysts?) in the United States, how likely is it that they will own or use an Apple Product: an iPod, iPhone, or Macintosh computer.

OK Ed, Let’s Wow ‘Em with the Numbers

The most impressive number that I see is that fully 21.6% of all adults nationwide own or use one of these products.  I don’t know about you, but even if the iPod dominates the “ground truth” behind this statistical estimate, I am impressed.  I’m sure that Apple stockholders smile and rub their hands in glee over what the iPad launch may do to these figures.  For Apple executive management, on the other hand, I would consider this a cause for concern with regard to the prospect of market saturation.  The iPad would be urgently-welcome as well as a  potential market broadener.

In the San Francisco – Oakland – San Jose DMA, the gravity well of Silicon Valley (the red giant) and Apple (the blue dwarf), the figure is 32.3%.  This is transformed into the wonderful  statement that the adult residents of this DMA are 49% more likely than the average adult American to own or use at least one of these products.   Well, sure 32.3/21.6 = 1.495 so we see where that more-dramatic figure pops out.  If this were an election we’d say that Silicon Valley leads the nation by 10.7 points, but I guess that is not so sexy.  I’m not sure what any of this numerical magic tells us, but let’s play along with the idea that it provides something useful for people who worry about life in the DMAs and how we might discretely dispose of our incomes.

The analysis continues through the top 10 DMAs (4 being in California) by this measure of Apple friendliness, with Boston (the Semiconductor East) at a close second and with Las Vegas at 27.9% as number 10.   Starting with number 3, San Diego, we are told the populations of these DMAs (and the full report lists them all).  For example, #4 New York weighs in with 30.4% of nearly 16 million adults and an observation about the observable presence of the iPhone.  In contrast, the 8th and 9th ranked DMAs have adult populations of less than a million each.

Those Modestly Successful Puget Sound Folks

If you go through the registration to download the full report and find out about the Seattle-Tacoma DMA, you’ll see that we are #14 with a population of 3.6 million adults.  A mere 27.4% are estimated to be Apple users (26.9% above the national average, if that fills you with regional pride).  The largest DMA of those closest to the national average (and why not proud of it?) is #57, St. Louis Missouri, with 2.4 million adults and 21.5% estimated Apple lovers.  For perspective, I note that 152 of the 206 DMAs come in below the national average for Apple Love.

Looking at the map that is provided in the full report, the Seattle-Tacoma DMA is at the heart of an Apple Love territory that spans the Vancouver BC – Portland Pacific-to-Cascades corridor, along with the I90 wedge to Spokane.  We’re among friends.

Keeping Steve Ballmer Awake Nights

It’s not clear to me what this tells us about existing markets and market opportunities.  It would be useful to know what proportion of those same populations own or use any device of the kinds that Apple sells and for how many of those none (and all) of them are made by Apple.  Obviously, economic conditions, educational achievement, and infrastructure in a DMA also matters.  There might even be a market differentiation among liberal (the “rest of us?”) and (economically-)conservative communities. 

When the unpenetrated market consists of the owners of your competitors’ products, life becomes more difficult depending on how much people do not readily churn their discretionary possessions and favored brands.  Still, the king of the mountain has to always sleep with an uneasy crown.  If you are a pretender to the throne, I suppose having to fear disruptive forces other than your own is a condition to look forward to.

And a Little Reality Seasoning

The ZDNet report on personal-computer sales just reached my inbox: “Gartner: Apple sells 1.4 million Macs in US; captures 8% market share.”

To explain how these numbers are so widely different than that wonderful 26.1% of adults, nationwide, it is important to understand that market share is not about what folks own or use, but what was sold.  The market’s 100% is all of the sales in a particular timeframe.  Because sales of personal computers in 1Q2010 are 20% better in units sold than 1Q2009, the market is spoken of as having increased by that much.  Notice that the statement is not about the revenue or the profit from those sales, which might sort out quite differently.

From this perspective, Apple sold 34% more Macintosh computers, moving from 7.2% of the units sold to 8.0% of the units sold in the most-recent quarter.  HP and Dell still dominate with over 50% between them but their unit sales did not grow as much as the market, which grew about 20%.  The sleeplessness at HP and Dell is of a different quality than what has Apple bounding out of bed every morning.  (Whether they made up for it in cash rather than volume, we won’t know from the Gartner analysis.)

To estimate the fuzz in all of this, the ZDNet article also reports an IDC finding that Apple grew its sales but lost market share against the total market (which grew more).  There is not enough information to know which are oranges and which are, uh, apples, among these comparisons.  It could be that Apple lost market share worldwide, since Macintosh penetration is apparently not so hot outside the United States while HP and Dell maintain their positions globally.  [Update 2010-04-19T01:20Z It’s worse than that.  According to the IDC Analysis, Apple doesn’t even show in the top five world-wide, and their growth in the US was below the 18.4% of the total market.  An 8.3% growth in Apple computer shipments left them down from 7.0% to 6.4% of the market.  IDC describes its report as counting shipments and determines market share from that.]

Perhaps the oddest reporting of these latest figures for personal-computer sales is the underplayed fact that Toshiba sales grew faster than Apple’s, taking away 4th place.  Acer did even better strengthening its 3rd place position as well.  These two can be credited with capturing most of the market growth between them.  Although this phenomenon is noted in the ZDNet article, Apple gets the headline and the lede.  Interesting, aye?

[Update 2010-04-16T22:46Z Something lead me back for a second look, adding a paragraph about the far-superior Toshiba and Acer performance as of 1Q2010.   The Tablet derby through to the end of 2010 is going to be fascinating.
Update 2010-04-16T20:46Z Repairing a typo allows me to speculate even more with almost no evidence.
 Update 2010-04-16T20:33Z I couldn’t resist adding the information about 1Q2010 personal-computer market volumes as evidence of how important it is to get beneath the numbers to find out what is really going on and who it matters to.]

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