The launch of Windows 7 on 22 October marked another milestone in the long-running, and often rather amusing, operating system war between the mighty monopolist Microsoft and our own feisty underdog Apple. Microsoft paid the Rolling Stones a squillion dollars to have the band’s rocking ‘Start Me Up’ for the launch of Windows 95. This is as cool as Bill Gates ever got to be.
The funniest Microsoft launch video has to be that for Windows 2.1. See it here: bit.ly/1pv4GD. There are parts of it that are beyond weird. I don’t think you can even buy drugs nowadays that could enable you to dream this stuff up. I’m not talking about the naff Mission Impossible bits. I’m referring to the rap that comes in at 2 minutes 37 seconds. It is as bizarre as anything I’ve ever seen. Crop circles appear as mere hedgerows in its presence. Paranormal? Even Fox Mulder wouldn’t want to believe this is out there.
It’s impossible, but try to put that out of your memory. It may require some Clockwork Orange Ludovico Technique brainwashing, but try anyway – so we can progress.
By all accounts Windows 7 is really rather good – in a much, much better than Windows Vista sort of way. Microsoft has apparently learned from the mistakes it made when lauding Vista as the answer to all computing prayers – promises that were very quickly shown to be laughably false. Bill and co promised too much too soon, and delivered on very little of it. And then they forgot to make the bits that were left compatible with anything else on the PC user’s desk.
But, if Windows 7 actually works better than the still-clung-onto, eight-year-old Windows XP, does that mean that rising Mac sales will be reversed now that Vista is no longer the easier enemy? Curiously, historical research suggests otherwise. Rather than negatively impacting Mac sales, the launch of Windows 7 may actually prove to be a real boon for Apple and Snow Leopard.
On the rise
Brian Marshall of Broadpoint.AmTech has researched the historical trends of new Windows launches and any impact on Mac sales: “No negative correlation exists on Apple’s hardware sales when Microsoft launches a new OS,” he reports. “Ironically, we believe new OS launches from Microsoft may have acted as a ‘delayed accelerant’ to Apple’s computing sales.”
The chart below shows that, over the past ten years, Mac sales figures consistently grow each time a new version of Windows is launched. Mac sales spiked following the launches of Windows 98 (1998), Windows 2000 (2000), Windows XP (2001) and Windows Vista (2007).
Marshall goes on to predict that Apple could double its worldwide computing market share over the next five years – from 4 per cent to 8 per cent by the end of 2014. Now that is something we’d all want to believe. This would mirror the Mac’s rise in share over the past three years in the US. Apple may not rank among the top five PC makers worldwide but it is No. 4 in the US, with a market share of 8.7 per cent. Three years ago, that share was just 4.6 per cent.
Apple, rather obviously, agrees with Marshall: “New Mac users continually tell us that they are tired of all the headaches with Windows, and they want the ease of use, stability and security of a Mac,” says Apple spokesman Bill Evans. “At the end of the day Windows 7 is still just Windows.”
Analyst Rob Enderle agrees the launch could boost Mac sales: “It could very well be a tide that lifts all boats,” he says. “Windows 7, with a lot of marketing dollars, is going to drive a lot of people into stores. The extra traffic could help Apple.”
Perhaps Windows 7 comes along at the perfect time for Apple, as it’s recently released Snow Leopard – which costs just £25, while the cheapest version of Windows 7 starts at £79 and rises to £199. While prices of Windows 7 remain high, prices of Windows PCs have been declining for years. Mobile broadband providers are even giving away Windows laptops to secure customers on long-term contracts.
Macs meanwhile, as we all know, still cost a lot more than similar PCs. Of course, they’re worth it just to have the Mac OS installed rather than some pathetically insecure version of Windows. But the price disparity throws up some interesting statistics.
In the June US retail market Apple accounted for an amazing 91 per cent of PCs that cost more than $1,000, according to research group NPD. And 85 per cent of US Mac users also own a cheaper Windows PC.
So this isn’t strictly a Mac versus Windows war at all. And whatever gruesome or bizarre advertising promotion Microsoft throws at Windows 7 some of that weird love may just end up coming Apple’s way – even if Windows 7 isn’t quite the weak opposition Apple has been used to fighting for the past couple of years. MW