May 17

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

A Tale of Two OSes: Vista vs. Mac OS X

While book sales are far from comprehensive as a technology trend indicator, they can provide insight into consumer enthusiasm for new products. We've been eagerly awaiting enough data on sales of Microsoft Vista books to see what they tell us about the market's enthusiasm for the product. The graph below shows the Bookscan data on sales of books on Vista vs. Windows XP. As you can see, XP books continue to sell strongly despite the fact that Vista now is the dominant Windows OS.

windows xp book sales vs. windows vista

Now compare the uptake of Mac OS X Tiger vs. Panther, and see how quickly the new version completely overtook the old:

Mac OS X Tiger book sales vs. Panther

We can compare the two more precisely by aligning the first six months of each product's release on a single graph. (Note, though, that Vista had a staggered release, with a release to corporate customer the end of November and to consumers the end of February. Tiger was released at the end of April 2005.) The graph below lines up the consumer release of Vista with the Tiger release:

windows and MacOS versions on the same graph

As you can see, Mac OS X Tiger almost completely replaced Panther in the book marketplace after only two months, while after six months, Windows XP books are still selling at a significant clip, almost 50% of the rate of books on Vista. It's also worth noting that despite the reported 3-5% PC market share of Macs, the volume of Mac OS X books sold for Tiger at the peak after the release is about one third the volume of the Vista peak.

Meanwhile, sales of books on the new versions of Office have still not surpassed sales of earlier versions, despite having peaked, as shown in the graph below:

Graph of Office book sales by version


Reader Dan Zambonini pointed out the similarities in the Google Trend search for Windows versions, where searches for Vista peaked above searches for XP, but now have fallen back below it:


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Comments: 16

  Dan Zambonini [05.17.07 06:10 AM]

Interesting data. Also interesting that your XP/Vista book sales seem to follow exactly the same trend as Google searches over the same period:

  Jason Hall [05.17.07 06:48 AM]

You also have to consider that it's possible OS X books are less popular than Vista not only because there aren't as many OS X users, but because many of them don't need a book to help them use it (either because they're naturally more tech savvy or because OS X is easier to use, or both).

Book sales figures are useful in measuring "consumer enthusiasm," as you said, but since many of these are how-to books, they also correlate to usability to some degree.

  Prateek [05.17.07 08:06 AM]

But Mac rocks so much harder than Windows..

No one likes window shopping :P

  Gatz [05.17.07 11:46 AM]

Vista is not what users want but what Microsoft want. Try to find a notebook with's damn hard.

  Ben Place [05.17.07 12:55 PM]

I like making fun of Windows as much as the next guy, but wouldn't a fairer comparison be XP->Vista books versus OS9->OSX books?

Back in 2001 we did a lot of research into OSX for the company I was at and we quickly determined that no way in hell would we upgrade any time soon. Which would be the same advice, for the same reasons, that I would give Windows users right now.

It seems to me that book sales might follow the same sort of pattern: hey, I'm excited about this new OS, but when I think about it, switching now would kill my business.

  Eng. [05.17.07 02:01 PM]

No! Please… show us something like ("Area") Cumulative Flow Diagrams (CFDs).


  • XP, XP + Vista

  • 10.2 (Jaguar), 10.2 (Jaguar) + 10.3 (Panther), 10.2 (Jaguar) + 10.3 (Panther) + 10.4 (Tiger)

  • Office 2000, Office 2000 + Office XP, Office 2000 + Office XP + Office 2002, Office 2000 + Office XP + Office 2002 + Office 2003, Office 2000 + Office XP + Office 2002 + Office 2003 + Office 2007

  Dave Butler [05.17.07 07:46 PM]

Regarding that comment about finding XP on a notebook. Recently Dell took note of consumer demand and now you can get a new notebook with XP if you choose.

As noted I think most mac users are repeat customers and they might not be buying books. I think the chart regarding Apple operating system sales is more affected but what was in the Apple supply chain when models were introduced with newer operating systems.

  Daniel Robbins [05.17.07 11:43 PM]

I agree with Ben Place's observation. XP to Vista is a fairly significant upgrade, and it's not really useful to compare it to an Apple point release. Apple has a very different approach to planning their releases, focusing on aggressive as well as incremental OS improvements that are released more frequently.

Panther -> Tiger would be equivalent to XP -> XP SP2. While Microsoft didn't market SP2 as a new product, the XP -> XP SP2 is as about as close as you can get to Microsoft's version of the Panther -> Tiger point-level bump (I think.)

I think you also need to consider the fact that Apple generates a lot of excitement around their point releases. Apple simply changes/tweaks things at a faster pace than Microsoft, which creates public interest in learning "what's new" from Apple. I think Apple has a trendier OS ecosystem - Apple users appreciate this and have come to expect this - and appears to be reflected in the numbers you see.

I think it also demonstrates how rapid innovation can help foster an engaged community.

  Hardy Wellin [05.18.07 12:45 AM]

55% of Macs are sold to switchers and this has been the case for years. 99% of Vista sales are to XP users and lets face it Vista is just XP with lipstick and DRM.

I think it's extremely telling that Windows with it's 20 fold market share over Mac is only selling three times as many books. That's because only about 10% to 15% of Windows users actually get their own computer the rest are force fed it by employers. Current estimates of home users where there is a much higher chance of choices being made in North America the Mac % of home users is above 30%.

  Ahmet [05.18.07 04:54 AM]

It's even worse for windows Vista if you compare what happen in the blogosphere :


Maybe it means that people are waiting longer with Microsoft than with Apple. A problem of trust?

  Robert Allard [05.18.07 07:14 AM]

Aren't you comparing apples with lemons?

  MIKE [05.18.07 10:07 AM]

You guys are completely lost. Today the Mac OS X user base is larger than Vista's. More than the double. Believe it or not is what says this statistics.

So, do not believe when M$ says that Mac do not has enough exploits due to its small user base.

Another interesting article to read is this one

  techmambo [05.21.07 03:22 PM]

great post

Techmambo is a site dedicated to obsessively profiling and reviewing new Internet products and companies.In addition to this, we also profile existing companies that are working hard to make products/services more usable for the rest of us. Techmambo is edited by Gerald Shuma.

  Jim Rait [05.22.07 12:58 PM]

Michael Schrage says "Innovation' isn't what innovators's what customers and clients adopt."
So isn't the difference between the OS graphs to do with the type of customers that each OS has. A large corporate customer will spend much more time thinking about risk mitigation of a Vista upgrade than a smaller shop with Mac to worry about. Exposure to risk is different and the creators of "stuff" on the OS's will perceive the different rates of feedstuff generation.. so we should see more innovation from the non-Vista world for a while yet!?

  mick [05.31.07 06:41 AM]

Well looky, looky here. I found a Mac lovers wet dream site. You pillocks obviously don't get out much.

Macs are for the socks and sandals brigade. They're not worth a light compared to a PC. In any situation a decently specced PC will walk it past a Mac and for less money. Macs are about as exciting and interesting as refridgerators.

  Bob [09.17.07 11:18 AM]

I like popcorn

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