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Microsoft's Windows Vista Marketing May Benefit Apple

The new operating system's hardware upgrade stigma and other Mac factors are pushing some people to consider the Apple alternative, ThinkEquity analysts muse.

Steve Jobs may want to send Steve Ballmer a thank-you note. Microsoft's marketing of its new Windows Vista operating system could pay off handsomely for the company's old rival Apple.

"We think Vista is good for Apple," ThinkEquity Partners financial analyst Jonathan Hoopes says in an e-mail. "As people upgrade their PCs, we expect them to increasingly consider the Mac alternative."

In a report issued on Monday, Hoopes and financial analyst Michael Lew argue that Apple hardware sales will benefit from the "Vista tailwind," from the imminent release of Apple's new operating system, Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5), and from the upcoming availability of Adobe's Creative Suite 3 (CS3).

"We think Vista has established a 'hardware upgrade' mind-set among PC users," the report states. "Meanwhile, Apple's strong retail store presence; all the buzz around the iPhone, the hugely successful iPod/iTunes combo; and Apple's popular Mac ad campaign are likely to combine into a 'maybe I should buy a Mac' decision. In other words, we expect Apple to be a significant beneficiary of the Vista marketing effort."

"That's a legitimate question, especially with Apple's virtualization approach," says Tim Bajarin, president of consulting firm Creative Strategies. "But there's no doubt Apple could be very aggressive with a switch campaign and use that to lure PC buyers to the Mac platform."

Bajarin says he has yet to see hard numbers that convince him people are switching platforms, but he added that conversations he's had at several Apple retail stores support the notion.

Whether or not a notable number of people really are switching from PC to Mac, Microsoft stands to benefit Apple marketing as well. Apple customers who want to run Windows using virtualization software like Apple's Boot Camp, Parallel's Desktop for Mac, or VMware's Fusion will also be Microsoft customers, at least in the short term, since they will have to purchase a copy of Windows.

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