Stop the Noiz

Windows 7: Bait for Windows XP and Vista Users

Frank Fox - 2009.10.19 - Tip Jar

If you read my trials and tribulations of bringing Windows 7 to my MacBook, you know that I am planning to have a Windows 7 launch party. To prepare for this, I am using Win 7 as much as possible. I am digging into new features and trying out everything so I can answer questions for my party guests as best as possible.

Separately, I am keeping a mental check list of things and how they compare to Mac OS X. The tally is still in Apple's favor. Apple has Exposé, Quick Look, better search, universal keystroke shortcuts, a more mature UI, better virtualization, etc.

On the other hand, Microsoft has had its copy machines running during development of Win 7. "Pinning" an item to the Task Bar is technically different than adding something to the OS X Dock, but it's obvious who is imitating who. Imitation is one way that Microsoft is working to close the gap between the two operating systems.

Microsoft has definitely upped its game with Win 7. As a person who uses Windows XP all day at work, I can see that if you could upgrade your PC to use Win 7 for around $100, it would be worth it. I've certainly done as much to keep my Macs up to date.

A Slow, Tedious Upgrade

The problem is that Microsoft doesn't make the upgrade easy. You can either spend 20 hours to upgrade or do to a clean install, which requires you to back everything up and reinstall all your programs. This is not what I would call consumer friendly. It doesn't sound like Microsoft is really trying hard to get people to upgrade their old computers.

Now that Win 7 is ready to be released, the pundits are fiercely claiming that either this will help promote more Mac purchases or, conversely, bring Apple to it's knees and drop Mac market share.

Neither suggestion makes much sense.

Apple has continued to grow Mac sales while not selling the cheap netbooks that everyone claimed it should. Windows 7 isn't any more threatening than a $300 netbook to Apple's business model; neither does Win 7 suck so much that users will abandon it in favor of a Mac.

Bait for Windows XP Users

Windows 7 is not a Mac killer - it is bait for Win XP users. Maybe there is a little emphasis on keeping people from switching to Mac, but that is not the most important thing. Seriously, the number of Win XP users (currently estimated at 71.5% of all online computer users worldwide, about four times as many as Windows Vista) is significantly higher than the number of Mac users (5.12%).

This is the battleground for the whole PC market: Getting those XP users to buy your brand of computer and operating system.

The slightly more serious threat to Apple is how Dell and HP are imitating the MacBook Pro, which make tons of money for Apple, with high-end Windows laptops. A fancy Dell Adamo or HP Envy with Windows 7, could theoretically be a combination that Apple has to watch out for.

The reality is that PC mentality will get in the way. Why pay more for an HP Envy when you can get the same specs or better from a $500 laptop? Microsoft's own arguments against Apple (as seen in Microsoft's Laptop Hunter ads) can block traction in the higher price range.

Expect Success for Both Platforms

Expect Windows 7 sales to jump: Vista is going to be forgotten soon. Apple will still do fine with Mac sales.

Expect to see Apple start leveraging Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" to increase the differences between the two operating systems. There is a lot of technology packed into Snow Leopard that is not being used.

Everything we see today is just the eye-candy on the surface. When both companies and third-party programmers start taking advantage of the GPU to accelerate performance (called OpenCL on Macs), we'll finally get a glimpse of how the two compare.

This fight is far from over. LEM

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