Lion Install Numbers Nothing To Roar About

First, let me apologize for the headline. And now, the news. It appears that Mac OS X Lion isn’t exactly taking the Mac world by storm: after brisk initial sales following the July 20 release of 10.7, growth seems to have stagnated.

This is based on visitor tracking by analytics firm Chitika, whose latest numbers indicate that Lion is still a long way from catching up to Snow Leopard and even plain old Leopard, which despite being several years old is still making up a fifth of their Mac visitors. Lion? Stalled at 16%, up just 2% from the end of September. It’s a reverse hockey stick.

This chart shows the absolute representation of the OS in their stats. If you could zoom out, for perspective, Windows XP and 7 would probably be at around five or six times the height of this portion.

What could be the reason for the slow adoption rate, if we can trust these numbers?

My opinion would be simply that the features aren’t attractive to the average user. While some of the new ideas and features are certainly useful, I confess my own bafflement at how irrelevant most are to everyday use. Few users will see Mission Control and Launchpad and think “yes, these are much better than Expose and a shortcut to the apps folder in the Dock.” Because really, they aren’t much better.

Mail, Airdrop, and full screen apps are useless to the many users who have adopted web apps for email, sharing, and daily tasks. Resume and disk encryption are invisible and not really interesting to casual users who don’t understand them (“what, why wouldn’t I quit something when I’m done?”) and won’t see them in action.

What’s left of the update apparently isn’t worth the thirty bucks.

It’s not that Lion is bad, but I think I understand people’s trepidation to undergo the update process (backing up and so on, easier than ever but still beyond many users) for features that don’t pop. Snow Leopard is fast and stable, and has access to most key apps and services. What’s the hurry?

Naturally the numbers will continue to grow, as Lion ships on all of Apple’s popular computers, and sales are better than ever. The rumored Air-style MacBook Pro series would provide a nice boost as well. But the trends suggest that Lion’s road to OS X dominance is going to be a long and slow one.