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Ratio of PCs sold over Macs drops to 1985 levels

PCs outsell Macs by a wide margin, but that gap has slowly been narrowing over the past few years, according to one analyst.

Apple's MacBook Pro
Apple's MacBook Pro Apple

The ratio of PCs sold to Macs sold has steadily been dropping and is now at 1985 levels, not too long after the first Mac debuted.

Creating a chart that reveals the ratio of PC to Mac sales since 1984, Asymco analyst Horace Dediu was able to track the rise and fall of that ratio over more than 25 years.

The ratio was about 20 to 1 in 1985 following the 1984 launch of the first Mac.

From there, the ratio went through some ups and downs for a good 10 years until around 1996, when it moved up to 15 to 1 and then started to rise every year. PCs continued to enjoy a huge and growing demand over Macs through the next several years as the ratio hit a high of around 55 to 1 in 2004.

But then the gap started to narrow. From a ratio of less than 45 to one in 2005, the gap continued to drop each year until reaching a low of around 20 to 1 last year, as narrow as it was in 1985.

Dediu's chart looks at only computers, not other devices, points out Business Insider. So it doesn't include the countless iPhones and iPads that Apple has sold. But the iPhone and iPad have certainly influenced Mac sales.

Though the ratio was already dropping, it took a nosedive to around 33 to 1 in 2007, the same year the iPhone was introduced. And it's fallen ever since as Apple has unveiled more mobile devices. The heavy demand for those mobile devices has triggered more interest in Macs and other Apple products and has lured more customers into Apple stores, where the full range of products is on display.

Horace Dediu

As overall PC sales have floundered the past couple of years, Apple has been one of the few vendors to remain above water. An August 2011 report from NPD Group found that PC sales in the U.S. had grown only 4 percent over the prior year, while Mac sales had shot up 26 percent over the same time.

Apple and HP have also been dueling each other for the top spot in PC sales over the past several months, as tracked by research firm Canalys.

After taking the crown late last year, Apple narrowly lost the top spot back to HP during the first quarter.

Of course, Canalys counts the iPad as a PC, which certainly helps Apple. But that doesn't discount the increasing demand for Mac computers.

However you slice it, the Mac may still own just a tiny percentage of overall computer sales. But the narrowing ratio revealed by Dediu shows that more consumers are realizing that Macs are a viable and often appealing alternative to the vast array of Windows PCs.