Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Apple OS X vs. Microsoft Windows for Genealogy? Making a Decision

Many years ago, the desktop or personal computer market was split between Apple and IBM. Apple had always relied on its own operating system, but IBM licensed the Microsoft operating system or DOS. You might note that IBM no longer manufactures personal devices of any kind, but Microsoft continued to dominate the personal computer operating system market. Well, fast forward to today. Where are we with operating systems?

Initially, very few genealogy software programs were developed for the Apple operating systems and most of the programs were available only on Microsoft based computers. The arose a common belief among genealogists that good genealogy software was available only for Microsoft based machines. It is time to re-evaluate and discard that out-dated notion. The main reasons for this need to reevaluate is that the dichotomy between Apple and Microsoft is crumbling. The new kid on the block, Google, is making serious inroads in both the software and hardware areas of personal computing.

One way to tell what is happening is to look at websites such as Here is a screenshot of the current state of computer use by nearly 100,000 people on U.S. Government websites.

This website monitors usage in real time. Look at the browser usage. Google's Chrome is easily the most popular browser, with Internet Explorer and Safari right behind. Note that Internet Explorer (Microsoft) is fragmented into usage versions roughly corresponding to the usage of operating systems. More than half of the Windows operating system users are at least one full version back in their conversion to Windows 8. But note who is second; Apple with its iOS operating system. Mobile devices account for slightly more than 30% of the usage with the systems pretty evenly split between Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

Here's what was happening as I was writing this post.

As the number of users rose, the percentages held pretty steady. There are some definite conclusions here.

1. The market is no longer a two-way battle between Apple and Microsoft. It is clear that Google is becoming a dominant participant.

2. The use of mobile devices is eroding the dominance of desktop computer.

3. Microsoft's fragmented market is an indication of the difficulty Microsoft is having in maintaining a dominant position. Even if Internet Explorer comes pre-installed on new PCs, people are shifting to Google's Chrome. Note that only 3% of the users have upgraded to Internet Explorer 10.0.

4. The use of mobile devices coupled with the usage of Windows 8 and 8.1 indicates that very few mobile device users depend on Microsoft's operating systems. This is supported by current sales figures of falling sales for desktop and notebook computers. See "Gartner Says Worldwide Traditional PC, Tablet, Ultramobile and Mobile Phone Shipments to Grow 4.2 Percent in 2014."

In the genealogy software area, there is a decided movement to using online programs. None of the genealogy software developers release sales figures, but my impression is that unless a desktop-based genealogy program is combined with the ability to access one or more of the major online database programs, sales will be marginal at best. In addition, during the past two years, there have been a number of better selling genealogy programs that have released Apple OS X version or compatible versions of their software. In addition, if the genealogy software programs do not move decisively into the mobile market with full featured apps, they will begin to lose even more market share.

Here is another update of the website.

Here are the sales figures for operating systems from Gartner with projections for 2015. You can make your own conclusions, but it looks like to me that any program that fails to make a mobile application and an Apple iOs or OS X version is going to ultimately fail.

Worldwide Device Shipments by Operating System (Thousands of Units)
Operating System
iOS/Mac OS

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. As a mac, iphone, and ipad user, I am glad to see the shift. However, it is disappointing to look at the mobile apps and see that there are very few for iOS yet. Maybe they are coming.