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Snow Leopard Stalks Windows 7

"The snow leopard is a powerful hunter, able to kill prey three times its weight."
-- From the Snow Leopard Trust Web site

OK, so it's not a real snow leopard, but it is on the hunt for game much bigger than itself. Apple is releasing the latest version of its Mac operating system -- called Snow Leopard, of course -- on Friday. In fact, folks who pre-order now can actually take delivery of the new OS by the end of this week.

A $29 upgrade (or $69 for a "family pack") for users of Apple's incumbent Mac Leopard OS, Snow Leopard doesn't represent a giant leap forward from its non-snowy cousin. But it does represent a price point that's cheaper, at least in terms of upgrades, than Windows 7. And some analysts are saying that it'll be a hit, with predictions floating around of 5 million unit sales in the calendar fourth quarter of 2009.

For a Mac OS, especially one that doesn't offer anything super-fancy -- although it will include Microsoft Exchange -- 5 million units in a quarter would be a very impressive number. Apple is essentially counting on its fans to go out and get Snow Leopard because it's faster than its predecessor and, really, just because it's there. Lots of Apple folk, unlike many Windows users, like to move to the latest version of the Mac OS when it comes out.

To an extent, that's the message Apple is sending to its users and to Windows users alike: While Microsoft arguably went backwards with Vista, which was mostly a sales dud, Apple will likely rack up big numbers with what amounts to a glorified service pack. Why? Because, Apple folks might say, the Mac OS is just that much better than Windows, and because while upgrading to new versions of Windows is an expensive hassle, moving to the next version of the Mac OS is inexpensive and worthwhile.    

But big numbers for Apple still wouldn't dent Windows' market share. Snow Leopard would have to bring down prey a lot heavier than three times its weight in order to take a bite out of Windows 7, which seems to be what Apple is trying to do with the timing of its OS release. Windows 7, by most accounts, is no Vista. It's poised to be a blockbuster, and Snow Leopard might end up being nothing but its warm-up act. (Incidentally, a word to the wise here: Users will be able to try Windows 7 free for up to 120 days.)

Still, Windows 7 will need to live up to its hype (and its price, once that free trial runs out) if it intends to avoid a wound from the Snow Leopard. Sure, it's unlikely that Microsoft enterprise partners will have to tangle with Snow Leopard too much (XP will be a much bigger competitor), but Windows 7 sales will be absolutely critical to Microsoft's financial situation and to repositioning the company as the undisputed king of the desktop. Meanwhile, the Snow Leopard is lurking...and it's hungry.

What's your interest in Apple's new OS? How do you think it will affect Windows 7 adoption? Send your answers to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 25, 2009 at 11:55 AM


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