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  • The Leopard Report: Apple’s Golden Opportunity?

    February 13th, 2007

    Although the sales figures aren’t quite in yet, there’s a general feeling that Windows Vista isn’t really doing quite as well as Microsoft hoped, at least as far as early adopters are concerned. Unlike the arrival of Windows 95 to the chords of “Start Me Up” from The Rolling Stones, you didn’t have all that many people standing in line for the Vista’s debut in the store shelves.

    Of course, after five years, maybe people are just a little too tired and worn out over the whole affair. Even Microsoft’ s promotional campaign doesn’t seem to have as much authority as in the past. In fact, when I last examined their Web site, Exchange Server 2007 was getting the lion’s share of attention, and Windows Vista was consigned to some tiny headlines; it may have changed by the time you hit the site. So much for the operating system that dominates the planet.

    I’m not saying, of course, that Microsoft is setting aside Vista as a failure. It won’t be, even if it takes the sale of new PCs to make it credible.

    Of course, a Vista upgrade raises larger issues. As with other Windows installations, there’s no guarantee it’ll actually work. Yes, I mean it, and the Vista reviewers say the very same thing. Sometimes it works just fine, while other occasions cause havoc. It has always been that way with Microsoft’s operating system, and even another five years of development wouldn’t make any improvement, as far as I’m concerned.

    Ah, I can hear it now: They’re going to be lining up in our Comments panel, complaining that I’m bashing Microsoft again. Oh well.

    But even if the PC users in our audience opt to buy a new box, with Vista preloaded, things won’t be simple. Sure, lots of companies have Vista-savvy drivers. No doubt your printers, scanners and multifunctions, not to mention your digital cameras, will probably work pretty well, unless they are older models.

    As far as applications are concerned, it’s a mixed bag. Many will run just fine, and they do for me. Yes folks, I do use Windows Vista. But it’s also true that Vista-savvy software may not arrive right away. Adobe, for example, which is returning Premiere to the Mac after three years, will deliver the Mac version ahead of the Windows version. Now isn’t that a change?

    With the expense of a new PC and application upgrades looming large, I rather suspect many Windows users will begin to seek out other options. There is, of course, Linux, which has made decent strides over the years to become a more compelling desktop platform. I suppose, once you get past the installation hassles and lack of drivers for a whole lot of hardware, it works pretty well. But even Linux can still strike you as a Windows castoffs, since the interfaces tend to be similar. Those Office substitutes are no doubt reasonable substitutes, but again, it can make you feel you’re not gaining much of an advantage.

    This isn’t to say that Linux isn’t a good operating system. Our sites are all run on Linux servers, and performance has been fast and reliable. Why not a Mac alternative? Well, for one thing, they cost more for a similar amount of storage and bandwidth. This isn’t to say that an all-Mac option is out of the question. Maybe some day.

    In any case, there is, of course, that other alternative that we all know about. Certainly, it does appear that Apple is doing its part to convince PC users to switch. The latest round of Mac Versus PC ads do well to convey the message. Take the one where someone standing behind the PC demands he answer the Allow prompt every time he tries to do something. Funny, but true. In Microsoft’s efforts to protect us from ourselves, they’ve gone way overboard, and it’s quite likely that many Vista users will tire of the annoyance and simply turn off the feature. That will defeat its purpose, but it can happen, and they will have to hope and pray that Vista is really more resilient.

    Indeed, Apple’s sly humor — as expressed by their ad agency — may indeed strike gold. For years, efforts to gain traction against Windows haven’t succeeded. The climate appears to have changed, witness those reports that 50% of the folks buying new Macs are new to the platform, and many of them are Windows switchers.

    However, the Leopard promotional machine hasn’t left the starting gate yet. Assuming Apple can deliver a 10.5.0 version that’s relatively free of show-stoppers, it could be smooth sailing.

    OK, I’ve said my piece. Let the complaints begin!

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