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6/5/2009
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Snow Leopard In Focus At Apple WWDC

The next version of Mac OS X will take center stage at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, opening June 8 in San Francisco.

Windows 7 screen shot
(click image for larger view)
Windows 7 screen shot

Snow Leopard, the next version of the Mac operating system that will be a focus of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference next week, is likely to mark the point that Microsoft has caught up with the consumer-friendly OS.

The reason is that Windows 7, which some reviewers are calling the best version ever of Microsoft's operating system, is expected to outperform Apple's celebrated user experience. While Snow Leopard improves performance and reliability of the Mac OS X, Windows 7 is expected to show that Microsoft finally got it right after more than 20 years of trying.

"Unless Apple is hiding something very, very, very big with Snow Leopard, Apple is about to lose the high-ground (and bullying rights) when it comes to its operating system," Hadley Stern, editor-in-chief of Apple Matters, wrote in a June 4 commentary.

Indeed, Apple for quite awhile has taken advantage of Microsoft's stumbling with Windows 7 predecessor Vista. In a series of highly effective ads, Apple has highlighted Vista's failings while touting Mac OS X's strengths. But if Windows 7 gets as warm a reception among consumer as it's getting among reviewers, then Apple will likely have to shift marketing strategies.

"The blunders of Vista were easy to pick at, picking on Windows 7 will be nitpicking at best, stupidity at worst," Stern said. "For all intents and purposes Snow Leopard and Windows 7 are two flavors of the same GUI."

Michael Silver, analyst for Gartner, agrees that Snow Leopard when compared with Windows 7 is unlikely to take Apple ahead of Microsoft in user experience. Windows 7 "should bring the operating systems toward parity and take away the laughs that Apple has been able to get at Vista's expense," he said.

Both operating systems are scheduled for release this year. Apple has not given an exact date for Snow Leopard, but Microsoft has said it will release Windows 7 Oct. 22.

In comparing the two operating systems, one needs to approach them from the consumer's perspective. At the business level, Microsoft beats Apple hands down, providing far more features deemed pivotal for most IT operations. While Apple has made some gains in market share among consumers, the Mac represents a sliver of the overall PC market compared with the dominating position of Windows systems.

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