Todd Bishop has a great story about Windows PCs blowing away the Mac in the consumer market. But the bigger deal here is that he hits on an important point that many people regularly miss: While Apple always puts up huge growth numbers for the Mac, it's easy to do that when your market share is tiny. But it's almost impossible to do so when your market share is huge. So how did Windows outperform the Mac so handily this past quarter? I'm sure the Apple apologists will have their theories or, more likely, simply try to change the discussion ("Look! It's the iPhone!"). But the truth is that consumers buy PCs, not Macs. And that's as true in the US as it is elsewhere in the world.

Buried in Microsoft's earnings report today is an interesting statistic that suggests the company's new Windows 7 operating system may be having some success in beating back Apple in the critical consumer market.

In the financial data accompanying its earnings release, Microsoft said worldwide Windows consumer licenses grew by more than 35 percent in the recent quarter. By comparison, Apple this week reported an increase of 33 percent in Mac sales over roughly the same time period. That was impressive, too, of course, but Microsoft is growing from a significantly larger base of sales to begin with, making its higher growth rate considerably harder to achieve.

"Of course we're going to outsell them on a unit basis, but on a rate basis, on a market share basis, we actually outgrew Apple Mac in the third quarter worldwide," said Brad Brooks, a Microsoft Windows corporate vice president, referring to the quarter in the context of the Redmond company's fiscal year, ending in June.

Discussing the PC market-share numbers, Microsoft's Brooks acknowledged that some skeptics might point to the fact that Microsoft is active in fast-growing, developing nations where Apple doesn't have a presence. But he cited a recent IDC report showing Apple's market share declining in the U.S. in the first quarter, calling that consistent with Microsoft's internal numbers.

"We definitely took share," he said.

Good stuff.