PC vs. Mac isn't a choice any more; neither is Mac vs. Mac

Smartphones and tablets have changed what it means to be a 'PC'

Apple's share of the overall computing market is growing, while Microsoft's is shrinking, according to a report from Netmarketshare, which measures market share not according to the number and type of devices connecting to the Internet, rather than how many IT vendors ship.

Its numbers show similar market shares to the more traditional ratings from IDC and Gartner, which are based on estimates provided by vendors of how many devices they ship each quarter.

There is one major anomaly and one major difference in its data compared to IDC, Gartner and others:

The difference is that Netmarketshare counts all the devices running operating systems from a specific vendor, rather than dividing them according to type of device.

That creates the anomaly: Apple's market share – traditionally around 5 percent – is rising rapidly overall, but mostly from increasing sales of iOS in iPhones and iPads.

FastCompany endorses the approach as a way of estimating the sales strength of each vendor, which makes sense if you're worried about whether Microsoft will act fast enough to keep from losing sales to Apple devices.

Netmarketshare is more relevant and more useful, though, if you're more concerned about what customers are using to access your site and what employees prefer as the device on which to work.

Several studies from analyst companies in the U.S. and Europe have shown clear shifts toward smartphones and tablets as the device end users prefer as their default access to the Internet and away from full-function laptops and PCs.

The shift is much more dramatic among younger users, but it is substantial enough in every age category to show that mobile devices are becoming as fundamental a computing platform as PCs and Macs.

That shift will change the fundamental criteria for every decision within IT and every dollar it spends, especially as the perceived choice becomes one of apps and smartphones vs PC/Mac luggables.

Which is what makes the assumption that relatively small changes are really important are misleading. Apple's "record" gain of .37 percent in global usage share is makes an impressive-looking chart compared to Windows' slow decline.

If you don't look at the analyses and projections from more traditional analysts, you might jump on Apple's bandwagon and miss the boat on other options.

IDC predicts the iPhone's sales will continue to increase, but it will be overtaken not only by Android, but also by Windows Phone 7 by 2015.

The smartphone market will grow 49 percent in that time. So, again, if you're looking mainly at sales, that's the rising tide that lifts all boats.

If you're in IT, it just means that if you bet on just one smartphone OS – the one that's in the lead right now – you'll be swamped before 2015 by the weight of "computers" running operating systems you don't support to access the network.

PC vs Mac arguments have been going on for a long time. They'll probably continue.

These numbers just make it clear that what people mean by "Mac" isn't just a PC made by Apple, and PC isn't just something running Windows.

PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets are all legitimate client machines for enterprise networks, and IT doesn't have the option of just choosing one or the other to support.

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