Apple Sold 156 Million iOS Devices in 2011, More Than All Macs Sold in 28 Years

Feb 17, 2012 - 5 Comments

Cumulative Apple Sales: Mac vs iPhone vs iPad vs iPod touch vs Apple II

Growth of iOS, the mobile operating system that powers iPhones, iPads, iPod touch, and Apple TV, is exploding. To put iOS’s success into some context, Asymco crafted the above chart to demonstrate the growth curve relative to years of Apple products on the market. The most staggering observation? Apple sold 156 million iOS devices last year alone, that is over 30 million more units shipped than all 28 years of the Macs existence, where it has sold 122 million computers. Overall, the iOS platform totals over 316 million devices sold in a few short years.

Look to iOS to Understand Mac OS X
If you’re wondering why Apple has been pushing the Mac platform to more closely resemble iOS with the release of OS X Lion and OS X Mountain Lion, this is it. The simplicity, familiarity, and success of iOS is too much to resist. PC’s, and Macs too for that matter, are indeed becoming the “trucks” that Steve Jobs predicted several years ago at D8 2010, becoming greatly outnumbered by the “cars” (in this case, iOS devices). Jobs’ now famous quote from that conversation:

“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars. … PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people. … I think that we’re embarked on that. Is the next step the iPad? Who knows? Will it happen next year or five years from now or seven years from now? Who knows? But I think we’re headed in that direction.”

The only thing Jobs’ was wrong about was how soon it would happen. As Asymco notes, it only took four years for iOS to overtake OS X.

Simplicity is the Future
None of this means the Mac is dead or dying though, in fact Mac sales are more impressive than ever before, but it does signify the changing roll of computers and how we define a PC. It makes us question who needs what hardware, and for what purpose. Frankly, for many users an iPad – or iPhone – is more than adequate to handle the routine tasks of daily technical life, be it reading or sending emails to browsing the web and listening to music. The Mac (and PC) will certainly still be around for those required to perform more complex tasks, but that market is undoubtedly smaller, and this has already been proven by the runaway success of iOS. As a result, traditional desktop operating systems are evolving towards simplicity. The Mac and PC are ultimately over-engineered and too powerful for the average users technical needs, this helps to explain Apple’s OS X strategy and Microsofts Windows 8 concepts, the power and underlying complexity is still there, but the experience is becoming simpler.

As DaringFireball noted when linking to the Asymco chart, “The lesson: simplicity sells.” If you have any doubts about this or where the industry is going, just look at that chart.


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Posted by: Jeff Hurst in News


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  1. […] of these figures are unsurprising given the tremendous sales volume of Apple gear over recent years, though it’s still an impressive feat for a company that was […]

  2. Ian says:

    So why is Apple trying to make Car shaped trucks!?!?!?

    What the OS X truck needs is much more low-level engine tweaking.

    OS X is still failing to support 10bit display support for photographers / post-production / 3D + special effects / research scientists — this truck needs tuning especially when Windows XP supported this for years.

    Why is hardware matched GPU performance still so much poorer in OS X compared to Windows and even now Linux, the GPU is powering the explosion of heavy lifting needed for many new creative fields; oh and people wanting to play games too!

    Our truck is running on a drive train (HFS+) that is creaking with every mile. We all use lots of data, and hardware-abstracted, redundant modern filesystems would make a significant improvement to our truck’s carrying capacity…

    And so on. I’m happy to see all those cars, but please Apple keep the truck doing work that only a truck can do, not make it an oversized car…

  3. DEW says:

    Very sad to see the Mac fall so far! not all things are measured in monetary value, the Mac OS was one of the best but is quickly becoming unusable for the creative market that it has served for so long so well. Even windows is moving in that direction what will the the professionals use as an OS in the future?

    • Peter says:

      The Mac isn’t falling at all, it’s still growing dramatically and outpacing PC counterparts, it’s just being eclipsed by iOS.

    • Stewart says:

      Mac is not falling because of iOS, it fact it is increasing because of it – I would not have purchase my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air if it was not for iOS.

      This chart is meaningless – especially if you look at growth of computers over tine and also look at phone grow.

      It really simple more people carry phones around then computers.

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