2014 is the year Apple catches up with Windows, says analyst

2014 will be the year that the sale of Apple devices reach parity with Windows. That's the word from well-respected industry analyst Horace Dediu, who published his thoughts recently along with some graphs on his site Asymco.

But the bigger story is how Apple’s mobile platform has nearly reached the sales volume of Windows. In 2013 there were only 1.18 more Windows PCs than Apple devices sold. Odds are that in 2014 they will be at parity.

Compare that to the historical high - in 2004, Microsoft sold 56 times more PCs than Apple did Macs. Apple had less than a 2 percent marketshare. Ten years later it's a very different story. Dediu expects that in 2014, Apple's combined unit sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs will be the same.

Comparing Macs to PCs, it's a different story. PCs still dramatically outsell Macs per unit, but Dediu is doing - pardon the pun - an apples to apples comparison of all Apple device sales (iOS and OS X combined) vs all Windows unit sales. PCs outsell Macs by a factor of 19 to 1, but when you factor in iOS, it's a very different story. That reduces the factor to 1.18 times in Windows' favor in 2013. It's been falling, which is what makes Dediu think that 2014 is the year that Apple and Microsoft finally meet on even marketshare terms.

The takeaway, of course, is a story we all know - that Apple has dominated in smartphone and tablet sales, while Microsoft has struggled for relevance in those areas. But it's something that no one could have dreamed - never mind accurately predicted - 10 years ago. Just as with QuarkXPress when InDesign hit the market, a combination of hubris and calcification made Microsoft badly fumble its dominant position. It's something that Apple and Google should both be mindful of, because the smartphone and tablet markets both require very long-term thinking. Things can change, just as they did before.

It'll be interesting to come back to this at the end of the year and see if Dediu's prediction holds true, or if this is finally the year that Windows Phone picks up some momentum.