Apple device sales projected to shut out Windows for the first time

iPhone, iPad, and Mac sales to top Windows devices
Windows pains

Apple has always had a leg-up in the "cool factor" over Microsoft, but its devices may also finally outsell Windows hardware in 2013, according to a market research group this week.

Devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Mac will result in more sales than Windows PCs, tablets, and smartphone, according to analysis by Gartner picked up by The Financial Times.

This is significant because Windows PCs have long-dominated Apple's market share.

However, it's not all that surprising given consumers' trend away from buying PCs in favor of purchasing smaller devices like smartphones and tablets.

Apple vs Microsoft sales in 2013

Apple's Mac and iDevice sales totaled 159 million in 2012, with hardware running Microsoft's Windows operating system slightly ahead at 175 million.

For 2013, Apple's sales forecast is currently at 233 million, according to Gartner, with Microsoft reaching 181 million, but losing its lead over its long-time rival.

"If consumers don't buy [Windows], developers aren't interested in it," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi to the Times.

"Microsoft needs to win in the consumer space if they want to remain relevant."

Microsoft's game plan

The good news for Microsoft is that it saw this trend coming before these forecasts were released - though perhaps a little too late.

The company went so far as to release its own tablet, the Surface, and it's rumored to be developing a Surface smartphone, possibly one that runs its Windows Phone 8 mobile OS.

Microsoft isn't the only company struggling in this PC-turned-mobile world, as other computer manufacturers are complaining about the slow sales of Windows-based products.

Samsung, for example, called Windows 8 no better than the much-maligned Vista operating system. Likewise, Fujitsu referred to W8 demand as "weak," and blamed its poor sales on the OS.

Whether or not sales of Microsoft-branded devices reverse Apple's rising trend remains to be seen. At the same time, it's just as unclear if Apple can maintain its level of cool now that it's no longer the underdog.

Matt Swider