Daniel Eran Dilger
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Why Windows 7 isn’t competing with Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Daniel Eran Dilger

Windows Enthusiasts are working hard to compare Windows 7 against Snow Leopard. The problem: there’s no intelligent or rational basis for doing so.

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Microsoft’s monopoly lock over the PC hardware business has been threatened by Apple’s growth. The clumsy, years late release of Windows Vista only helped to accelerate buyers’ interest in evaluating Apple’s offerings. Many Windows Enthusiasts now have the idea that a strong release of Windows 7 will turn things around and rob Apple of its newfound growth, returning the PC to the glorious position it enjoyed in the late 90s.

However, Windows 7 won’t help Microsoft win back any significant market share from Apple because copying what worked for selling Macs won’t work for Microsoft. That’s because, as I like to point out, Microsoft is not anything like Apple. Microsoft almost exclusively licenses its Windows software to PC makers, which are then pitted against each other to sell commodity hardware to consumers. Apple sells a unique, integrated product directly to consumers.

In some areas, Microsoft has a major advantage. For example, Windows faces little competition in business sales where Microsoft only needs to maintain sales relationships with key buyers in order to keep revenues flowing. In areas where Windows has tied an entire market to its proprietary protocols and libraries, such as with Office or Exchange Server, or Direct3D in gaming, Apple and other alternatives, such as Linux, have faced impossibly difficult barriers to competition.

In many other market segments however, Macs (and Linux) have both found conformable niches where they are more fit for survival than Windows. Apple has specifically targeted home and education markets, mobile business users, music and video production, and sci/tech markets, all of which represent low hanging fruit that is also highly profitable.

Why Windows 7 is Microsoft’s next Zune

Competing Against Specialized Integration

Apple’s specialization and unique differentiation from generic Windows PCs, including the Mac’s advantages of being a highly integrated product with centralized support resources, distinctive hardware design and attractive OS software, all combine to make it better suited for certain markets than the run of the mill PC. No features in Windows 7 can compete against those core strengths of Apple’s integrated platform.

The only way Microsoft can take on the Mac is by creating its own PC hardware. That’s exactly what the company realized it must do with the Zune to compete against the iPod, and it’s what the company plans to do with the “Pink” Windows Phone to rival the iPhone sometime next year.

The Zune failed, and Pink is still vaporware with little chance of success. However, a Microsoft PC would likely do far more damage to the Windows monopoly than simply passively watching as Apple erodes its way deeper into Windows’ most lucrative markets. Microsoft was quick to gamble away the failure of PlaysForSure to obtain a shot with the Zune, but risking its comfortable, if abusive, relationship with PC makers just to take a stab at Apple would likely be disastrous with little upside for the company.

Staging a Microsoft PC would also take a long time to prepare. Slapping whatever logo Microsoft is using at the moment on an HP or Dell would be easy, but the company has no expertise in successfully selling hardware. Look at the Xbox: a decade of channel stuffing, massive returns, and loss leader sales just to push a simple appliance product that shouldn’t need lots of support.

To sell its own PCs, Microsoft would need to build out retail stores. That’s a huge risk in itself. Until all that happens, all Microsoft has is Windows 7, a polished version of Windows Vista that shares some of Vista’s same issues, including having no speed advantage over Windows XP.

Windows 7 so great Microsoft is giving it away for free

What Windows 7 Won’t Do.

There’s nothing in Windows 7 that makes the generic PC more competitive with the Mac experience. Instead, Windows 7’s borrowed similarities, including Microsoft’s own version of the Mac OS X Dock and Expose, only endorse Apple’s Mac platform as being the leader and innovator.

Windows 7 won’t make PCs cheaper. In fact, Microsoft has clearly outlined that it wants to use Windows 7 to make netbooks more expensive. This could conceivably create anti-trust problems, given that the company just spent considerable efforts to push Ubuntu Linux off of cheap netbooks using product dumping, but it won’t do anything to help Microsoft leverage cheap hardware against Apple, something that the company has already failed to do even as the Average Selling Price of PCs dips down into the $600 bucket while Apple’s computers are mostly $1000 and up.

Windows 7 simply won’t introduce anything game changing. The global PC market won’t radically rebound because of a new name affixed to the latest Vista service pack. Today’s trends point to PC makers attempting to diversify their offerings by toying with Linux, something Google may be able to exploit with its web-centric Chrome OS for low end PC devices. But nothing out there portends any rebound in the fat profits Microsoft harvested throughout the 90s from its exclusive monopoly control over PC sales.

Microsoft plans to use Windows 7 to raise netbook prices

Apple’s Mac Growth Via Comparison to Windows PCs

Over the past decade, Apple has changed from being a niche player in the global PC market with a paltry 1.5% share of all desktops and servers into being a member of the top five PC makers. In specific markets, Apple now commands a share ranging from very significant (home and education markets) to dominating (high end notebooks and all in one PCs).

The company achieved this dramatic growth in part by reaching out to customers with ad campaigns that focused on the problems Windows PC users experienced and explained why Macs were easier to use, had no real problems with malware, and were backed up by support staff in Apple’s retail stores, among other advantages.

Apple’s retail stores, along with the popularity of the iPod and more recently the iPhone, have made it too easy for buyers to investigate the company’s claims. Over the last half decade, Mac sales have subsequently grown from around 0.7 million per quarter in 2004 to 2.6 million in the most recent quarter, despite the current recession.

Windows 7 won’t reverse any of the causes of Apple’s success. It won’t make Apple retail outlets go away, won’t stop the incessant malware attacks targeted at Windows PCs, and won’t clean up the support mess involved in selling hardware from one company with software from another.

Why Windows 7 on Netbooks Won’t Save Microsoft
Why Microsoft Will Slaughter Its Windows Mobile and PC Partners

“I’m Rubber You’re Glue”

That hasn’t stopped Windows Enthusiasts from trying to make false comparisons in desperate attempts to malign Apple. Ed Bott recently tried to suggest that Apple was awful for selling Snow Leopard as a $29 upgrade because it left out all those Power PC Mac users and those that were still using Tiger. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that Apple has sold over twice as many Intel Macs since 2006 (29.2 million) as it sold in the first four years of Mac OS X (13.9 million). Or that nobody upgrades machines that are over 4 years old anyway.

Remember when Windows Enthusiasts, crushed by the world’s negative reaction to Vista, attempted to trump up a fake outrage about purported launch problems with Mac OS X Leopard? Remember all the times that they’ve tried to suggest that the security crisis in the Windows world is pretty much the same for Mac users, all because of an obscure trojan being promoted by Intego, the company aspiring to sell antivirus software to Mac users?

Remember how they tried to complain that iPod scratches were on the same level as Microsoft’s appalling bad construction of the Xbox 360 with its hardware failure and return rates ratcheting into the record books?

Those attempts at creating false attacks on Apple’s products have failed, not just because they’re all false, but also because its really hard to foment complaint and disapproval without full on brainwashing that leaves no opportunity for conflicting reports. If Mac malware were really reaching Windows-like crisis proportions, or Leopard had been awful, or people in general had been outraged with the build quality of iPods, Apple wouldn’t be growing dramatically year over year. Its stores wouldn’t be full.

Snow Leopard gets richer, thinner, cheaper than Windows 7

Windows 7 vs Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

As it is, Apple has little it needs to defend from Microsoft. The company feels such little threat from Windows that it began work on Snow Leopard outlining no flashy new features. Instead, Snow Leopard delivers a variety of more practical advances, including a 64-bit kernel that enables the operating system to take advantage of much more RAM. This primarily benefits new systems with the potential to add more than 4GB of RAM.

Windows Enthusiasts like to point out that XP was, and Vista is, offered in a 64-bit version, but they fail to account for why so few of the billion Windows users globally have opted for the 64-bit edition. Partly, it’s because Microsoft has had compatibility issues between its 32 and 64 bit drivers, and between some 32-bit apps and its 64-bit system. Partly its because there’s a lack of 64-bit software, such as no 64-bit Flash web browser plugin from Adobe (which means you can’t run IE in 64-bit). Apple skirts that issue by running Flash in its own land in Snow Leopard, which also helps avoid crashes when Flash frequently fails.

Apple has also built native support for Exchange Server into Snow Leopard, something no version of Windows has, enabling Macs to work seamlessly in businesses run by Windows IT shops without requiring additional third party software licensing or relying on Microsoft’s own terrible Mac clients.

Snow Leopard is all about shoring up the Mac’s popular, modern Leopard operating system with the latest advancements, including the cumulative progress delivered by a variety of open source projects (such as WebKit, LLVM, and CUPS, all of which are openly maintained by Apple).

Windows 7 is all about trying to resell Vista to XP users who didn’t want it the first time. That’s going to be a hard sell. Microsoft already ceded HP the rights to continue offering XP to business users, but from here on out, Microsoft will be forcing other PC users into the Vista/7 fold. Users get a flashier, slower system for their troubles. This is supposed to induce a huge new demand for generic PCs?

Microsoft allows HP to wipe Windows 7 with XP through 2010

Windows 7 and Snow Leopard aren’t in competition. Nobody is going to be shopping around this winter considering the merits of each. Microsoft will be begging PC users to upgrade to a new, unfamiliar PC while pushing the price of netbooks up, as Apple will simply continue selling Macs.

If you need a historical example of this, contrast the iPhone and its free updates to 2.0 and then 3.0 with Microsoft’s efforts to sell Windows Mobile updates. WM 4.0 required new hardware. With 5.0, Microsoft gave up retail sales of its mobile OS. With 6.0, the company scrambled to release something that looked like Vista as it rapidly lost mobile market share. 7.0 has failed to appear as promised, and has been replaced by a series of interim updates in 6.1 and 6.5 that offered nothing attractive.

Microsoft’s core problem is that is only sells half of the product being offered. It’s married to PC makers, and must share both the profits and the blame related to a two-part product. Windows 7 only has the potential to solve half of the problem with generic PCs. Whether it can resolve any Vista-end problems is debatable, but it simply does nothing to address the main problems with PCs that Apple is advertising. All of which makes “Windows 7 versus Snow Leopard” irrelevant in the real sales battle between integrated, diversified Macs and generic commodity PCs.

  • RichT

    “Or that nobody upgrades machines that are over 4 years old anyway.”

    Daniel, you’re usually right on the money, but you really missed the mark with this comment.

    One of the not-so-hidden advantages of Macs is that they remain useful and in use much longer than the typical PC. It’s not unusual for people to run their Macs six or seven years or even longer.

    I recently helped a teacher I know upgrade a five year old G5 iMac from Panther to Leopard (she had thought ahead and purchased the machine with 1GB of RAM). The increase in performance was noticeable and she’s delighted with all the new features. Other than email, she primarily uses her computer to stream music and for photography. We might have to replace the hard drive at some point, a cheap and easy upgrade. I fully expect her to use this machine for at least two or three more years before she has any compelling reason to purchase a new one.

    Windows Vista/7 would be a complete dog on most five year old PCs.

    I have a four year old G4 iBook that I’m going to put Leopard on. I did have to get it refurbished a few months ago, which the Apple store did inexpensively and quickly. It’s perfect to get yet another family member off of the mess from Redmond.

  • ShabbaRanks

    Great article which is, as ever, well thought out with reference to evidence. That’s why I love this site. It’s hard to find good quality journalism today, and yet here it is.

    Interesting that a certain Mr Thurrott has recently claimed that Apple have a cheek charging for Snow Leopard as he thinks Microsoft would have given it away for free as a service pack. Surely if that was the case Windows 7 would be free because as far as I can see it’s no more of an upgrade to Vista than a ‘Snow Leopard style’ service pack would be.
    http://www.winsupersite.com/alt/snowleopard.asp

  • broadbean

    Hey Daniel,

    Stop bashing Microsoft Windows 7 and its supporters already! :D

    It certainly will be interesting to see how Windows 7 turns out in a few months time.

  • applefan84

    I haven’t had a chance to read the article yet (will later), but what’s the deal with the different typefaces that alternate over the course of the piece?

  • http://www.veo-design.com VeoSotano

    Hey Dan! Nice article as alwyas, but wat’s up with all those paragraphs having different fonts/styles? Is it because of WordPress?

  • http://www.veo-design.com VeoSotano

    Damn! I should have reloaded the page before writing my comment… someone asked the same before me, but I didn’t know until it was late :P

  • http://spacecynics.wordpress.com Thomas

    I’ve been running Win7 RC on a virtual machine using VMWare 2 on a 2-year-old MacPro. I only see eye-candy. No performance diffs from the XP build I have. Yawn. Meanwhile, I’ve been running SL on a separate partition for months. Just screams.

  • Raymond

    I have a PC notebook and I recently decided to take Microsoft up on their offer of trying Windows 7 for free. I’m glad that I did because if I hadn’t experienced it myself then I would secretly be wondering if it was as good as people said. However, instead of the fantasy land portrayed in the gushing reviews; what I found was a minor improvement on Vista. It’s a good eye opener to play with Win7 on average PC hardware rather than installing it on a Mac (which compared to PC is premium hardware). Like many laptops, I have an Intel integrated graphics chip. So the first thing I had to turn off was aero, this was intuitively conveyed to me as a series of turning the screen black for 2 secs and then returning followed by a message in the taskbar reading “Display driver stopped responding and has recovered”. This would then repeat until the system crashed. I googled for the problem looking for people posting similar issue, after reading past all the comments from people telling them that their hardware sucks and they should simply buy a better machine, I found some comments on changing the theme to Windows 7 basic. After change that the system was a lot more stable, but you have to wonder if the system could not have installed itself in a state that did not need changing in order to be stable. Additionally with aero off Win7 (like Vista before it) loses much of its sparkle. I’ve still got it installed but it’s certainly not WOWing me and when the time come for it to expire it’ll be a case of thanks, but no thanks.

  • shiver me timbers

    Can’t wait to find that brewer plugin.

  • http://www.jphotog.com leicaman

    I occurs to me that the Snow Leopard upgrade not having flashy new features for the most part benefits Apple in a way I hadn’t considered. The PowerPC users who can’t upgrade don’t feel too bad because they aren’t missing out on a bunch of new features that would make them more productive, or allow them to feel left out of some cool new feature.

    So Apple’s being smart like a fox to promote it as having few new features, simply because it makes being left behind less painful.

  • http://www.metrokids.ca Conrad MacIntyre

    It’s funny, but I have a tech friend who installed Win7 on his Mac Mini as the default OS. And as he was cruising around it telling me about all the great new features (Show Desktop, Grouped Taskbar Icons, etc) I reminded him of their XP counterparts (Show Desktop Icon, Grouped Taskbar Items, etc). Win7 offers nothing that XP users don’t already have. I told another Windows-loving friend that he could get Win 7 for $50 and he told me he’d rather stick with XP (he already downgraded from Windows Vista).

  • ChuckO

    Raymond nailed the windows experience. Windows is great example of the weird place we’ve ended up in the US. You look at almost any product (cars, clothes, tech) and the race to the bottom mentality get’s you to Wall-e world buried under a mountain of crap.

  • http://reformedandregenerated.com trainwrecka

    @leciaman

    agreed. So when 10.7 drops with all that and a bag of chips, PPC users want be shocked they are not supported.

  • Tardis

    Daniel,

    If there are angels in heaven keeping score of your blogs and how much came true versus those ZDNet and other “Windows Enthusiast” bloggers, there’s a pair of wings waiting for you and a bunch of red pointy tails and a roasting awaiting the rest.

    Keep up the good work.

  • tinytim09

    Wow. Just wow.
    Windows 7 & Snow Leopard don’t compete? Yeah ok.

  • John E

    “Windows 7 and Snow Leopard aren’t in competition. Nobody is going to be shopping around this winter considering the merits of each.”

    well i agree with most of the article. but this final take-away is just wrong. of course there will always be some people considering/comparing both – the flat out “nobody” is total overstatement (Dan, you need a friendly editor). but even if scaled back to something less absolute, it is still essentially wrong.

    sure, the large majority of buyers – both Mac and Windows – are just upgrading or replacing older computers and really won’t bother to consider the other operating system. too much effort to switch. that’s just the basic inertia of the market.

    but a substantial fraction (mostly current Windows users statistically of course) will in fact consider both, especially for a new computer setup. and so those will certainly compare SL to W7.

    meanwhile, the traditional and web media are going to publish hundreds of head-to-head SL vs W7 comparison pieces of all kinds. that will frame a lot of discussion and impact a lot of consumer thinking too.

    myself, i’m looking forward to well-done benchmark speed test comparisons. especially the multitasking one, Windows weakest spot.

  • Mike

    @John E

    I think what Daniel is trying to say is that they don’t directly compete with each other. Macs, at least historically, haven’t been competing in the lower PC price points, and they’re limited to the upper part of the market, while Windows takes the bottom and middle. But yeah, even this argument falls apart because it’s not like there’s two different markets, it’s just different parts of the market. That may change with the introduction of the Apple tablet, so all bets are off if Apple is successful with that and i it ships with Snow Leopard.

    So even though Windows 7 may not compete feature-by-feature or performance-wise to Snow Leopard, it still sells through the PC manufacturers and in that sense, doesn’t compete against the Mac because it gets the revenue through licensing, not selling to consumers. But yeah, it still competes with Snow Leopard on ACTUALLY selling to consumers ;)

    Pretty accurate article actually… except upgrading machines that are over 4 years old isn’t unheard of, like everyone else said, for Macs. I know people who have installed Leopard on a G4 and upgraded the RAM within a month ago. It’s just that older machines tend to be harder to support, because they start to have lots of other issues, like hardware failure and casing problems, especially laptops. And obviously, PowerPC machines are great, but Apple would like to give you a reason to upgrade to their newest ones after 4 long years ;)

  • John E

    hey, here is a good post from FSF: http://windows7sins.org/

    they do not compare each item to Snow Leopard and Apple (and they have their own issues with Apple). but the comparison would be striking.

  • ChuckO

    tinytim09 & John E, I just bought my first Mac and it wasn’t about the comparison of Windows 7 and SL. I did it because I primarily spend my time in iTunes or on the web and secondarily need a good machine for managing photos and videos of the kids so I wanted to try a Mac. I’m a Windows developer at a major insurer but I’ve had it with Windows.

  • gus2000

    I think Daniel was oversimplifying with the comment “nobody upgrades machines that are over 4 years old”. Yes, Macs do survive in the wild much longer than their PC counterparts, but older machines get upgraded less often and are constantly becoming a smaller and smaller share of the market.

    One of Dan’s articles from last year, “Myths of Snow Leopard 1: PowerPC Support”, goes into great detail about why it makes sense for SL to be Intel-only. In short, most of the internal improvements won’t benefit PPC users, and Leopard will continue get updates and therefore provide a usable platform for years to come.

    This break had to happen eventually, since attempting to be eternally backward-compatible creates a code museum that is unstable and impossible to maintain; for proof, see Win7, or just read Dan’s article from 2006, “Platform Crisis: The Tentacles of Legacy”.

  • tinytim09

    @ ChuckO

    Ok? Just because they don’t compete for you that doesn’t automatically apply to the rest of the world.

  • ChuckO

    tinytim09, We’re dealing with generalities here. Is there literally no loonies out there making the decision based on comparing the two OS’s? No, but it is a statistically insignificant amount. It’s just isn’t the way a majority of people decide and that’s because it doesn’t make sense to decide like that.

  • HammerOfTruth

    Well there is a lot of talk about the older Macs not working with Snow Leopard and I don’t see the issue. Most of those Macs are still working just fine with Tiger. The users already know that the day of the PPC is long over. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the computer should go in the trash, people do upgrade old Macs. They upgrade them where the count, memory and hard drives, just not the OS. Why? Since it works just fine with Tiger, there is really no reason to. All the nice features of Leopard aren’t “MUST HAVE” features for the veteran Mac user.

    Windows 7 however, is competing with both the Mac platform and Windows XP. Having used the RC, I don’t see the real benefit. It’s still looks like Vista which will turn off the XP lovers. It STILL IS SLOWER than XP, no matter what the “experts” say. Plus most people who see how radical of a change from XP visually will consider a Mac since they have to relearn how to use it anyway.

    I’m waiting to hear from Corporate America, they’re the ones who sent Vista down in flames since they decided to pass on upgrading their infrastructure.

  • http://islandinthenet.com Khürt Williams

    I agree with Dan that the Mac does not compete with Windows. Other than IT folks and tech nerd, people do not buy operating systems. They buy capability. The average consumer wants to know “will this computer allow me to edit my photos, use facebook, create a DVD of my vacation video and edit Word and Excel documents?”. So Macs only compete with other PC manufactures at the higher end of the market; Sony, Alienware etc. All those recent Windows commercial for computers under $1000 etc show people buying HPs. All those arguments about Macs being too expensive are usually comparing some bargain from HP, Dell or Gateway. Microsoft wants to kill of cheap netbooks because the price point shine a light on how expensive Windows really is.

  • ChuckO

    Here’s agreat story about comparing the two OS’s.
    http://www.electronista.com/articles/09/08/26/win.7.vs.snow.leo.debunk/

    The part about who implemented 64 bit in the OS is a great example of how pointless the comparison is. The whole OS comparison is a connard to shake peoples confidence in the decision they are about to make.

  • rizzior

    Well Said My Friend.

  • http://www.veo-design.com VeoSotano

    I don’t know if the people, like me, that still use a G5 as their main computer, won’t feel left behind. I mean, they are no flashy features, but, damn I want all those refinements and under the hood improvements. I certainly feel a lot of pressure tu update, from iLife, the OS, 3rd parties, etc. They all are leaving the PowerPC architecture behind.

    If it wasn’t for the money I’d be long upgraded already. :'(

  • roz

    I don’t think Win7 is about winning back share from Apple. It’s about improving their general OS for the PC market. XP is old and not secure and Vista was unacceptable. This has been a problem for the WinPC market because they just did not have a good package to offer. Win7 and the good press it is bound to get will help them a lot. Of course many will still want a Mac but as long as there is no inexpensive entry point to buying a Mac it’s a much tougher sell than it ought to be. I really would like to see some shift that will further reduce the price differential between a new mac and PC. Either Apple should lower the cost of entry level computers so that they are directly competitive with the cost of a PC or they should consider a solution that opens the OSX experience to non-Apple hardware.

    Even if we all agree that OSX is better, if the computers cost more to buy then the quality gap will not lead to a bigger share of the market, it could just stay level or it could lose share over time, and that would be a repeat of the tragedy of the 1990 Apple. That should be avoided at all cost.

  • http://www.sistudio.net studiodave

    I always have agreed with Dan, till’ now.
    ***
    Or that nobody upgrades machines that are over 4 years old anyway.
    ***
    Typing this on my 7 year old Powerbook running Leopard and seeing that Snow Leopard has been billed as bug fix and clean up, will leave me out of these fixes. Even my newer G5 that I use Final Cut Pro for income stops me from getting the newest FCP upgrade because it requires Snow Leopard as well. No I can not go out and buy 4 new computers this year, next year or the year after that. Or farther still.

  • gus2000

    studiodave, I can sympathize with your situation. However, your predicament does not create a business case for Apple to expend effort on customers that have no plans to buy a computer “this year, next year or the year after that.” AFAIK there is no computer company anywhere that supports their latest offerings on 7-year-old hardware.

  • travelscott

    Daniel,

    Good article, once again. Just wanted to point out that your google ad system was advertising a Psystar (!!!) system at the end of your article.

    I’m guessing that you would not approve of that.

  • http://all.net/ hylas

    Daniel has a knack for nailing things to the wall like art.

    With the rarity of “throwing us a bone”, (which we can beat him over the head with):
    (“… Or that nobody upgrades machines that are over 4 years old anyway.”)
    It’s nice coming to a Gallery where you can go and feel like the Curator won’t pick your pocket.

    “… all Microsoft has is Windows 7, a polished version of Windows Vista that shares some of Vista’s same issues, including having no speed advantage over Windows XP.”

    It’s commonly referred to as “polishing a turd”.

    Speaking of Robbery – Win 7, yeah, I installed it on a P4 PC, that the owner pleaded for me to take (they’d “switched” to a Macintosh), wow, how underwhelmed can you be?
    I’m “certified” (Seattle) on the Win2k Srvr way of the master and had gathered all the right kind of incense and 2 spare computers to help me hunt and gather the basics to get Win 7 on the network.

    Three hours later my wife asked me why I torture myself.
    I thought that to be a really good question.
    Free is too much here.

    “Ah, I think you might have misread that one. The latest version of Windows is fully compliant with the ISO’s ‘Piece of Shit v9’ standard. POS IX, not POSIX.”
    – From a Long Lost Slashdot Poster

    Remember, there’s a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.
    – Frank Zappa

  • ShabbaRanks

    @ roz.

    I too have always wanted an inexpensive way to enter the mac market but it’s not really in Apple’s interest to go down this path. Low cost hardware is why Dell, HP et al, are all making thin profits and why the PC market in general is poorly placed to accept the upgrades to Windows, Microsoft keeps churning out.

    I think both Windows Vista and 7 are better versions of Windows than XP. However, the low cost, low performance market in which Microsoft trades means that consumers won’t accept an OS upgrade that doesn’t run well on their old, low performance hardware. In order for Windows Vista/7 to run well it requires mac levels of power. This is something only “expensive” PCs can provide and it’s the exact opposite of where consumers in the generic PC market are going. The essential advantage Apple has is that all it’s hardware is cutting edge and well designed at the point of purchase, meaning every mac is guaranteed a long, productive life, despite the initial perceived expense. Due to this, mac users are more likely to upgrade their OS as time goes on. Not only are their computers more likely to make the transition to a new OS without a noticeable hit in performance, but the tight control Apple has over it’s hardware configurations ensures it’s OS upgrades are tuned well for the hardware it’s intended for.

    To all PPC users, don’t feel sad you aren’t getting Snow Leopard. Snow Leopard is merely a minor OS upgrade to take advantage of some unique capabilities in the intel hardware. Because multicore G5s don’t work the same way as multicore intel chips, GCD isn’t really applicable to you guys. However, it’s very valuable to intel chips.
    It’s pretty much the same story with all the other features except the Finder rewrite. It’s not really worth asking PPC users to fork out for a Finder rewrite.

  • http://www.veo-design.com VeoSotano

    @ShabbaRanks yeah, but it isn’t just the OS (and btw, you are oversimplifying, there are tons of improvements… and Exchange support, how’s that Intel only?), its many new apps: the music lessons store in iLife, the latest After Effects, Final Cut, all the latest games…. all Intel only.

  • ShabbaRanks

    @ VeoSotano

    You’re right. I am over-simplifying. However, there may be tons of improvements, but no real new features. My point is that most of these improvements, though present, wouldn’t benefit the PPC crowd in the same way as the intel user due to subtle differences in the way PPC & Intel chips work.
    I must admit to agreeing with you about the ‘Lessons’ feature in Garageband though. Apple haven’t come up with a good reason why this is. I also agree about the requirement for Snow Leopard in some new Pro-apps (something I’m not well informed on). Seems a bit early to be abandoning PPC users in this way.
    If PPC users don’t use these Pro-apps then they shouldn’t feel too jealous of those with Snow Leopard as it’s likely their systems wouldn’t see much change anyway.

    P.S: Exchange support is nice but Entourage and the iPhone have it anyway.

  • ShabbaRanks

    Maybe 10.7 will be Universal again?

  • T. Durden

    I don’t get it – Mac’s aren’t that expensive. Mac Mini: $600, Mac Book: $1000, Mac Book Pro: $1200. Let’s say you purchase a Mac Book Pro for $1200 and it lasts you four years. That’s $300/year. Less than $30/month. If you splash out and get the model for $2500, it’s still not more than about $60/month.

    If you’re a home user, that’s not especially expensive.

    If you’re using your Mac to make money and can’t finance something like that – well, perhaps it’s time to revisit your business model.

  • ShabbaRanks

    @ T Durden

    That’s why I just bought a £1600 MacBook Pro. Considering my iBook G3 has just started to groan on Flash content I thought I’d splash out. After all, the iBook lasted 8 years!

  • roz

    @ShabbaRanks
    I am trying to present the real issues with more clarity so that the real interests of Apple or the platform can be understood. There is a strong precedent for the potential problem a company with Apple’s current strategy can experience – Apple itself in the 1990s. Apple in the 1990s had a technical lead and was very profitable. That is the problem. You net more on every machine but lose market-share in the long-run. Over time it is very difficult to give up profits because you are more and more reliant on them. The trouble with losing market-share is that you undermine your position, by definition, with customers but more importantly with developers. And this leads to the death of a platform. This is the risk for Apple – we have see the exact same set of circumstances play out before.

    You write: “In order for Windows Vista/7 to run well it requires mac levels of power.” You are deluding yourself. The PCs being sold today as average systems are perfectly sufficient to run Win7. This is the issue. And more importantly, don’t pretend that Macs have a hardware advantage in terms of processing when they don’t. Consumers and corporate buyers will not engage in that fantasy. It’s the same or very similar hardware for 3/4 – 1/2 the price, only a fool would ignore reality. The Mac OS is better but not that much better. When everyone knew Windows XP was so broken it was not an option, Mac’s had a significant advantage but as Windows recovers, Mac’s advantage erodes. So there you have it. Same hardware or better for less money with a decent OS. It is a perfect recipe for losing the weak grasp of market-share that Apple has recently won.

    Like most of my friends right now who are on PCs are on old XP machines. They will buy Macs most likely when they get a new machines but for example my Aunt just got a 15 MBP. She paid $1579. She wanted a laptop with a screen larger than 13″. Now I was handling it for her so I told her not to worry about the money and just get MBP, mainly because I knew she could afford it and I didn’t want her or me to have to deal with Windows. But the truth is that BestBuy has a pretty nice Sony for under $800 that would have been from for her from a horsepower standpoint. So, while I could push the Mac’s case here, if you imagine 10 other families making the same set of choices how many would pay nearly 2X as much for the MBP? Now factor in that they have just been told a million times how great Win7 is. This is the marketplace reality that Apple faces.

    If you think GCD or some other Apple technology is a significant differentiator, think again. Sure it’s great but it’s not going to make much of a difference to most people. And it depends on developers implementing it. And Open CL is an open standard that MSFT can also implement.

    Daniel writes: “Windows 7 won’t help Microsoft win back any significant market share from Apple ” Uh what? This is not the problem. Window still sits on the vast majority of machines. The issue is: how will Apple hold or even expand it’s position. If Apple has a hardware only place, as many of you cling to, it HAS to have a lower-end line, but that line can’t be compromised because the Windows world competes very hard in that space. And that means that Apple can’t be very Apple-like. So that, my friend, is why Apple’s interests may not be like what they seem to be based on past success. Maybe Apple will pull another rabbit out of it’s hat but don’t expect a price differential to be a healthy thing for Apple’s longterm interests, it’s not.

  • ShabbaRanks

    @ roz

    Surely the last decade and Apples growth through significant recession prove you wrong.

    Apples past problems didn’t come from expensive high profit hardware. It came from selling an irrelevant product that only had use in niche markets.

    Apple don’t need to get into commodity hardware for exactly the reasons you point out. Apple’s business plan is to produce the very best PC hardware money can buy and they would find it very hard to do so if they enter the low value commodity PC market you seem to love so much.

    Apple are correct in saying that to kit out a PC to an equivalent spec to Apple hardware almost always works out more expensive for the PC buyer. It’s also not true that an £800 BestBuy special represents as good a value as the more “expensive” Macintosh. It’s due to the wilful ignorance of the general public (for which they are not at fault) that generic PC manufacturers cannot differentiate themselves from each other. Due to this they have a hard time showing the value they as indivduals can represent and people see PCs as just that. A PC. Not a Dell, HP, etc.

    For Apple to want to become involved in a profitless, identity free soup-like market would surely only erode what they have spent the last 10 years trying to do. To be known for producing the best PCs you can buy. Both for value and customer service.

    PS: By “mac levels of power” I meant that’s what you require to run Windows as well as intended. Not just run. The hardware Apple sells is configured so that the internal components synergise as much as possible for the time. I realise this sounds like BS but it’s one of the reasons Windows Vista runs quicker under Boot Camp than on a similarly specced PC.

    P.P.S: Innovations like GCD and OpenCL are not here to save the mac platform. Just help it be the best it can be.

    TTFN.

  • ShabbaRanks

    @ roz

    Oh, one more point I forgot to address. If you’re reasoning is that the BestBuy Sony is in a better position due to it shipping more units and therefore gaining larger marketshare you’re only half right.
    Just look at Apple and Dell. Dell undoubtedly ships more units and has larger marketshare than Apple due to this. But Apple is worth almost twice as much as Dell, despite it’s inferior marketshare. This is due to the fact that the market in which Dell deals is worth very little. You need huge marketshare for modest value. This is the problem with the PC market which is slowly growing but perversly worth less and less per unit to it’s major players.

    Apple couldn’t say this about Dell 10 years ago. Forgive me but I think their strategy is proven, intelligent and sound. They are like the guy who starts the barfight but just watches everyone else fight. Then takes the girl home at the end.

  • roz

    @ShabbaRanks

    The last decade is not a good indication – that is my point. A big part of Apple’s success was based on Windows being so broken. Microsoft had not shipped a successful OS since 2001. I don’t think the Mac side should bank on that level of product development failure to recur anytime soon.

    Also remember that Apple’s attention is now divided between a lot of different businesses.

  • ShabbaRanks

    @ roz

    A fair point.

    Windows is still playing catch up though and I agree with Dan that they’re not really in competition in the same way a lot of people think they are.

  • J0hN

    I just love reading your articals. It is hard to find someone who make valid statments instead of rehashing some wild story, creating false information, or being completly stupid and believing Microsofts vapourware.
    @roz Microsoft never created a good os

  • roz

    @JohN
    “Microsoft never created a good os”
    Maybe not to you or me. They have not made one that I wanted to use – but that is not the point. The question is not which is better or nicer to use, clearly OSX is better. MacOS was always better than Win 3.1. Better than Win 95. The bumper stickers were Windows 95 = Mac 1986, and those statements were true. So how if you have a better product do you lose market-share?

    Well part of the story, and honestly I wish it did not work this way, is that the cheap yucky Windows crap is good enough. It’s good enough for running a browser. Good enough for pulling some photos off a digital camera and posting them to the web. Good enough for a sales rep taking out on the road to do whatever. That is where the consumer market lives.

    For now Mac has some traction because you have a lot of people who are still getting burned by XP and horrid security. Over time though, as these issues recede into the past and Win& establishes itself the terms of competition will change.

    I am just trying to make these points now so that we don’t have to watch Apple/OSX slip into oblivion again.

  • ChuckO

    Roz, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying but I think you are overstating the outcomes. There’s just nothing to be gained in a race to the bottom with WinTel for Apple. Windows is a ticking time bomb because as Windows machines get cheaper and cheaper the Windows tax gets harder to justify never mind the windows plus office tax. Selling lot’s of something where no one makes a profit isn’t sustainable. Apple wants the folks who will pay for quality and will sell them multiple products across a number of price points. I think this is another problem with your arguments to Mac vs. PC centric. There’s too much that’s changed to see a repeat of the 90’s. Microsoft is in a very vulnerable position with the ability to deliver apps over the web, etc. Apple get’s a lot more out of it’s seemingly small gains against Microsoft whereas MS looses a lot out of the same shifts.

  • enzos

    A note of appreciation. I’d just like to say how great it is find a tech forum that doesn’t revert to preaching and juvenile name calling within the first half-dozen posts.

    My current machine, the last model eMac with maxed out RAM, is getting towards the four year mark but it’s still delivering the goods (Office 04 [dammit!], iLife08, Photoshop, ChemOffice &c.) on Tiger. Hasn’t been switched off for over a week and its twin at the office, on a Windas university network, hasn’t been switched off for a month… just put to sleep each afternoon. My point is that I find no point at present in worrying about what I might be missing out on with 10.6. Dan is overstating for effect his case about upgrading but is not far off the mark.

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    Sorry Daniel, but you missed the most important reason

    Why Windows 7 isn’t competing with Mac OS X Snow Leopard

    which is that it can’t. Poor Windows – made by a company famous for it’s incompetence.