Apple's success continues to generate a steady flow of knock-backs, as Microsoft and its partners seek to regain some of the patina of innovation. Now it seems Vista already has more users than Mac OS X. Big deal.

Apple's Mac sales are growing at a rate faster than the industry average; Mac marketshare continues to increase; there's no sign yet of a decline in iPod sales; the iPhone is already the fastest-selling mobile phone ever shipped...

Apple has much more in its cupboard, promising a period of "product transition" in its current quarter.

So it's no surprise that Microsoft and its church of loyalists are bragging about the 60 million Windows Vista sales made since that OS was released earlier this year.

The giant software firm even wants to make things personal with that company's chief operating officer, Kevin Turner, telling analysts: "By our math, we eclipsed the entire install base of Apple in the first five weeks of shipment."

(I do hate the way people in the US say "math". The word is mathematics.)

Once again, that's really nothing to brag about.

You see, when you are a company that holds in excess of 80 per cent of the OS market, then selling into even 10 per cent of that market would easily eclipse Apple's 5 per cent.

But it's not growing a new market. Microsoft doesn't do this any more. It's preaching to the converted.

Apple, however, is growing it's market. And in a friendly move toward its ancient adversary/part time friend. Apple has allowed Microsoft the luxury of releasing its OS in isolation.

Sure, Apple said it was delaying Leopard until October because it had to focus development on the iPhone, but a swift flight of fancy would claim that that wasn't the real reason.

Apple executives took one look at the Mac OS X-like Vista OS, and felt sorry for Microsoft. Not only that, but an afternoon spent reading through the various iterations of Vista Microsoft is selling to customers left Apple's development teams a little confused and woozy - they had to have a sit down.

"Which version do we need for Boot Camp?" Apple developers asked each other. "Do we need the supercalifragilistic media expansion enterprise personal cut down run-time Vista, or do we need the plain-and-simple-nothing-works introductory version of Vista?"

Whatever these versions are called. Doubtless there's one of those Windows fanboys out there who can explain Microsoft's licensing schemes, but I digress.

Apple doesn't really want to go head-to-head with Microsoft. That wouldn't be fair. Why it wouldn't be fair depends on how you see the environment:

1. It wouldn't be fair because Mac OS X Leopard is clearly the superior operating system - other than the need to invest in a Mac, why would any computer user choose anything else?

2. It wouldn't be fair because Microsoft has the larger installed user base, so any comparisons between sales of the two systems cant be accurate. It's the same as running a race - if one runner starts off 100 metres in front of the other in a 200 metre race, it's pretty clear who is going to prevail.

Anyway, Microsoft reckons it has 42 million Vista PCs out there now, driven mainly by "strong renewals for enterprise agreements" with business and government customers.

So not the consumer market, then. Nor the creative market. So Vista is used for those payment and billing services, presumably.

Why is that a good thing?

And then company CEO Steve Ballmer let slip that the installed based of WIndows PCs will reach one billion within the next 12 months.

In essence, assuming 800 million Windows users exist today (a notional figure, picked from thin air), then Microsoft has succesfully sold Vista to a stunning 6 per cent of its user base within six months.

Apple regularly shifts Mac OS X upgrades to 70 per cent or more of its user base within a shorter period of time.

So perhaps Microsoft advocates should consider what that statistic means - particularly since on Microsoft's own admission, it's the enterprise customers who are buoying Vista sales.

And those IT departments making those buying decisions have invested heavily in Microsoft technologies - maintaining the Windows hegemony is their career. Without Windows, they have no job.

Ballmer's final observation is hilarious: "If you stop and think about that for a second, by end of our fiscal year '08 there will be more PCs running Windows in the world than there are automobiles, which to me is kind of a mind-numbing concept."

Other than the pithy observation that cars also crash, I have to say that the idea of their being so many Windows PCs around truly is mind-numbing.

It certainly baffles me.

Why?