Windows 7 Can Be a Success Without Hurting Apple

On October 22, Microsoft will unleash the much-anticipated Windows 7. After the commercial disaster that is Windows Vista, it is believed the new release will turn the tide for the world’s biggest software maker. A lot of people also believe it will put a halt to Mac OS X’s growth, but I personally think we need to remember the timeless quote form Steve Jobs: “We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.”

In anticipation of the Windows 7 release, and what it could possibly mean for Apple,BusinessWeek interviewed Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president for marketing. Schiller stated that Apple sees the release of Windows 7 as the best opportunity in years to further grow the Mac platform at the expense of Microsoft. “It presents a very good opportunity for us,” Schiller said.

Apple is planning to capitalise on the launch of Windows 7, and will launch a marketing campaign to lure people away from the Windows platform. The campaign will focus on promoting that Macs are more secure than Windows and are better suited to accompany iPods and iPhones. Apple will most likely also mention the upgrade hassles Windows 7 buyers will have to go through. “Any user that reads all those steps is probably going to freak out,” Schiller believes, “If you have to go through all that, why not just buy a Mac?”

Microsoft doesn’t think the upgrade hassles are a problem, since more than 95% of Windows license sis sold through OEMs anyway – that is, on new machines. “For the vast majority of people that get Windows 7, most will move to new hardware,” said Parri Munsell, Microsoft’s director for consumer product management. In other words, the complicated upgrade paths won’t affect more than 95% of Windows buyers.

Schiller does not believe that Windows 7 will see the same upgrade rates as Snow Leopard, and he’s probably right on that one. “We’ve been through these transitions before, and no matter how you look at it – it’s still Windows,” says Schiller, “When all is said and done, the Mac picks up share a bit at a time.”

Everyone – and the media in particular – love a good fight, and the competition between Apple and Microsoft always receives a lot of that love. People like Joe Wilcox claim that the release of Windows 7 will put a stop to the slow but steady growth Apple’s Mac OS X has seen over the past few years.

People like Joe Wilcox don’t think properly. They do not seem to have a good grasp of the nature of the competition between Microsoft and Apple. Let me make it very clear: Windows and Mac OS X do not really compete – at least not directly. Apple sells computers, and Mac OS X just tags along. Microsoft sells operating system licenses and office software. On top of that, whereas Apple offers products in the higher price ranges, Microsoft mostly caters to the lower ends of the market. Maybe even more important is that Microsoft does not need to convince Mac users to switch to Windows – no, Microsoft’s real competition is Windows XP.

Apple and Microsoft more or less work around each other in the operating system business. “We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.” This is what Jobs said back at MacWorld 1997, when Microsoft more or less single-handedly saved Apple from certain doom. We’re 12 years down the line, and it is still valid: Windows 7 can be a massive success without Apple slowing down for one second.

That’s what I think is the most likely scenario. It’s not as exciting as Wilcox’ one, though. Sorry.


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