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Apple Fires Another Torpedo Across Microsoft’s Bow

Well, the cat is being prepared for shipment and is ready to pounce upon millions of expectant Mac users come Friday. Now all last week, there were rampant rumors that Snow Leopard development had wrapped. Well, for a product promised for a September delivery, that development made perfect sense. Unless the DVD processing plants are waiting 24/7 for Apple to deliver the Golden Master, it takes time to ramp up production and ship to retailers.

The other rumor was rather more intriguing, that Apple would beat its deadline, and deliver Snow Leopard the last weekend in August. Now not to toot my own horn, but my original shipping date, as predicted on the radio show, just happens to be Friday, August 28. That statement, however, was made before the September timeframe was announced at WWDC. I actually apologized in public for my overeager optimism. So consider the apology withdrawn.

Consider the other development in the tech universe, the completion of Windows 7, which is set for a gradual rollout to both consumers and businesses. General availability will apparently come in October, but even now Windows fanboys, both paid and otherwise, are busy touting the wonders of the replacement for the disastrous Vista operating system.

That sort of behavior comes in contrast to the news about the arrival of Vista several years back that was almost uniformly bad or, at best, noncommittal. Whether this is a genuine harbinger of truth or Microsoft making up for its marketing mistakes is anyone’s guess. We’ll know when the real — and not the prerelease versions — of Windows 7 are truly upon us.

Now I’m sure most of you know that Microsoft is notorious for delivering products late and sometimes never, witness a few of the features of Longhorn, the original development version of Vista, which were tossed under the bus probably because they didn’t work.

In recent years, Apple has been pretty good about getting products out the door with all or most features intact, and pretty much on time. Sometimes shipments are a few weeks late due to early production difficulties or unexpected demand, but it doesn’t happen all that often. Sometimes, too, there is the need for an early revision of a software product because of the mad (or otherwise) rush to shipment, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a 10.6.1 in our near-future, unless Apple has changed their ways big time.

By getting Snow Leopard out the door ahead of schedule — after letting the press speculate on the subject for several days — Apple is reaping the rewards of lots of advanced publicity. Now unlike some of you, I haven’t been checking Apple’s site daily for news that I could finally place my Snow Leopard order. If you must now, I got up Monday morning, checked a few of my favorite sites on my iPhone, and discovered a link to Apple’s press release.

No, I didn’t rush to my Mac or attempt to place the order direct from the iPhone because I felt I would somehow suffer if I didn’t hand over my $29 (plus sales tax) to Apple right away. I took my time, and set the task aside until other more pressing needs were dealt with. Then I placed my order, and, despite an apparent heavy load on Apple’s servers, experienced no problems completing an express checkout process. Indeed, since my credit card is already on file, they only asked me to enter the CVV number, those three letters from the back of the card that are used for verification.

Oh, and if you must know, CVV is an acronym for Card Verification Value. So there you go.

Minutes later, I had an email acknowledgement. A few hours later, it was already “Prepared for Shipment” along with the promise that it “Delivers on Aug 28th.”

Already the media pundits are projecting sales of up to five million units before the end of the September quarter, perhaps owing to the cheap price of admission. That Snow Leopard quickly rose to the top of the pack on Amazon and Apple’s online store augers well for its ultimate success. Besides, how could it miss?

As you know, the arrival of Snow Leopard will be accompanied by the release of a number of books on the subject from some of my friends and colleagues who stay play that game. You’ll see electronic books from Adam Engst’s Take Control Books and printed titles from such people as Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus and David Pogue. Commentator Daniel Eran Dilger is making his first foray into book writing as author of a nearly 1,000 page volume covering Snow Leopard Server, and that huge book will arrive in early November. But he has a lot more work to do, of course.

It’s interesting to note that the server version of Snow Leopard is selling for $499 in an unlimited edition. Now compare that to the pricing for any recent server suite from Microsoft and you’ll see, once again, where the real “Tax” is paid, and it’s not to Apple.

Better yet, I wonder what will happen if a few gutsy members of the media dared to confront Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about some of his missed projections, such as the “obvious” failure of the iPhone and the claim that there’s such a thing as an Apple Tax. He might want to toss them out the door, but his response, if any, would nonetheless be interesting to contemplate.