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Apple’s iOS surpasses Mac OS X in web traffic

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple’s mobile devices apparently have been taking a bite out of the larger PC market, but they’re also eating up some of Apple’s own computer market share, a new web traffic study suggests.

The study from Chitika finds that Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, has surpassed its Mac OS X in generating web traffic. That means there are more users surfing the Internet on iPads, iPods and iPhones than on Mac computers. It’s a correlation that suggests more people are opting for Apple mobile devices than Apple computers, and potentially, as other data suggests, desktop computers in general.

Part of the reason for the increase is that Apple sold a huge number of mobile devices in 2011, snapping records and putting iPads and iPhones in more hands than ever before. As Chitika notes, IDC reported that Apple shipped 93.2 million iPhones and more than 40 million iPads during 2011. In the fourth quarter of that year, Apple sold more than 17 million iPhones, more than 11 million iPads, 6.6 million iPods, and only about 4.9 million Macs.

So the fact that more mobile traffic is trending toward Apple mobile devices than its computers isn’t all too surprising, given just how many of those devices are out there, and how much more affordable they are than a typical Mac computer: the iPad starts at $499, while a new Macbook starts at $999.

Apple noted back in October that the iPad was cannibalizing Mac sales, but said it wasn’t doing so nearly as much as it was cutting into PC sales. Speaking about the second quarter of 2011, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that while iPad sales seemed to be cutting into Mac sales, Mac also had its best quarter ever. That suggested if anything was getting its market slashed by the iPad, it was the PC.

Chitika’s data shows that the Mac has lost about 25 percent of its share of the web market since September, dropping from accounting for better than 10 percent of all web traffic to just below 8 percent, while iOS has grown from about 5.5 percent to better than 8 percent. But if Cook’s statements from back in October bear out, it might be more that Apple’s mobile devices aren’t stealing market share from Apple so much as just expanding the web traffic market. Mac’s share is declining because it’s moving far less in device volume than mobile devices, so the entire market is expanding. And that expansion is more driven by mobile devices than traditional computers. This doesn’t necessarily signal that significantly fewer people are buying Macs than otherwise would have.

Still, the tectonic shift in terms of the ways consumers find information from the Internet, as well as spend money and consume advertising, seem to be shifting toward mobile. In the future, that will definitely have far-reaching implications for the traditional computer market.