A Modest Proposal On How Microsoft Can Clobber Apple - InformationWeek
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3/25/2009
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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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A Modest Proposal On How Microsoft Can Clobber Apple

I've been watching the tech news and shocked by how Mac market share is receding due to the recession. Apple executives are putting on a not-worried public face -- in the company's last quarterly earnings call, CEO Steve Jobs said that Mac users are loyal. They'll postpone buying, but they

I've been watching the tech news and shocked by how Mac market share is receding due to the recession. Apple executives are putting on a not-worried public face -- in the company's last quarterly earnings call, CEO Steve Jobs said that Mac users are loyal. They'll postpone buying, but they won't switch to Windows. That was true during the last recession -- but is it still true today?The last recession was 2000-2003 or so (depending on which economist you ask and which region you're discussing), At that time, there was a broad canyon between Mac and Windows applications. If you had a Mac, you weren't likely to go to Windows because of the financial cost of switching all your applications, and migrating all your data, as well as the enormous hassle of learning a new operating system.

Since then, we've seen a big change in Macs. Most applications for the Mac can also be found on Windows, or their close-enough equivalents. In particular, Web browsers are now the most important apps on users' PCs, and the main Mac Web browsers, Firefox and Safari, which didn't exist during the last recession, are also available on Windows. And technology such as Boot Camp, Parallels, and VMWare Fusion lets you run Windows on the Mac, which means many Mac users have a hand in the Windows world.

These factors worked in Apple's favor in recent years, removing barriers for people looking to switch from Windows to the Mac. Now, they can work against Apple, if people start thinking about switching back.

Windows and the Mac are much closer together today than they were during the last recession. A Mac user who needed a new computer in 2001-2 might wait until the economy improved. A Mac user needing a new computer today might price-shop and decide, "The heck with it. I'll get a Windows machine today. I'll think about whether to get another Mac when the economy recovers."

However, there is one major obstacle to users looking to switch from the Mac to Windows, one relatively expensive piece of software which most business users need. While it's available on both platforms, it's priced separately, and it'll cost you a couple of hundred bucks extra to get it on both platforms.

That's the bad news for Microsoft. The good news for Microsoft is that it owns that one piece of troublesome software. The software is, of course, Microsoft Office.

So that's my modest proposal to Microsoft: Offer steep discounts for Windows Office licenses for users who already have Office for the Mac. Like, if you already have Office for the Mac, you can have a Windows license for $9.99.

Also, Microsoft should advertise how easy it is to switch to Windows. Make it the basis for funny TV commercials. Let Mac users know that they'll be made to feel welcome in the Windows community, nobody will make fun of them or think they're stuck-up.

Just don't get Jerry Seinfeld to do the commercials.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).

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