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Apple Snow Leopard Faces Windows 7 Fight

The latest iteration of Mac OS X is looking like a solid upgrade, but Microsoft's follow up to Vista constitutes a major competitive threat.
Libin agreed. "I was pretty down on Windows for a while. I got rid of my last Windows computer several years ago and upgraded the family to Macs. I got tired of doing tech support for my wife and family," he said. But he bought a PC recently, and installed the pre-release Windows 7 on it. "It's been surprisingly nice. I'm coming around to thinking that Microsoft is going to have a hit with Windows 7."

Will Windows 7 stop Windows users from switching to Mac? Will it make people who've already switched switch back? Libin isn't sure. "Windows 7 is a big jump forward for Microsoft, Snow Leopard is incremental for Mac. Maybe the total lead that Mac had over Microsoft in terms of user quality will be smaller this fall than it was in the past couple of years."

The biggest threat to Apple comes from the emerging popularity of netbooks and other inexpensive PCs. Apple specializes in high-end systems, while Windows is available on both high-end and inexpensive machines. The emerging popularity of low-priced, low-powered PCs, combined with Windows 7 improvements, could be a one-two punch against Apple.

On the other hand, Snow Leopard could be a kind of stealth weapon for Apple. "Snow Leopard won't make a huge impact overnight for the Mac," Case said. "But the lasting impact will be making this a stronger developer platform. You've seen what happens with the iPhone when you have a good developer platform." Availability of rich, third-party applications have helped drive popularity for the iPhone.

Apple says users downloaded 1.5 billion apps from the App Store in its first year of operation, which ended in July, with more than 65,000 apps from 10,000 developers available.

Apple is the third-largest smartphone vendor, but only has 3% market share, trailing Nokia and RIM, according to Gartner. Apple, however, is growing fast: It had 13% market share in the second quarter of this year, up from 3% in the year-ago quarter.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicts Apple will sell 5 million copies of Snow Leopard through the end of the current quarter. By Friday August 21st, a week before Snow Leopard went on sale, it was already the top-selling product in the Amazon software category.

For Further Reading

Apple Mac OS X Snow Leopard Coverage

Apple's Snow Leopard Brings Compatibility, Security Concerns

Is Snow Leopard Coming With Antivirus?

Mixed Review For Windows 7 Release Candidate

Windows 7 Under The Microscope