Apple's sales of its Snow Leopard OS X update are outpacing those of its previous operating system releases, Leopard and Tiger, according to an analysis by research firm the NPD Group.
The NPD Group's tracking service estimates that Snow Leopard is outselling the original Leopard by a 2-to-1 margin, and outselling Tiger by 4-to-1, during the two weeks since its Aug. 28 release.
Despite the upswell of publicity surrounding its release, Snow Leopard boasts relatively few flashy aesthetic improvements over Leopard, but it does offer a number of under-the-hood refinements. Mail loads in half the time as in Leopard, Apple asserts, while Time Machine's initial backup is 80 percent faster. It also requires 7GB less space on the hard drive than Leopard.
In order to propagate a rapid dissemination, Apple priced Snow Leopard at $29 for Mac OS X Leopard users; those purchasing a Mac between June 8 and Dec. 26 will be able to buy a Snow Leopard upgrade package for $9.95.
"Apple has clearly demonstrated that aggressive pricing policies in this economic environment generate an outstanding consumer response," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a Sept. 17 statement. "As we head into the fall selling season, and the release of another major OS upgrade, it will be instructive to see if that upgrade-currently projected to sell at ASPs much higher than Snow Leopard-can deliver the same incremental increase in consumer demand that Snow Leopard has enjoyed."
The research firm's numbers suggest that Snow Leopard has some momentum, with sales declining around 25 percent between its first and second weeks of release. By comparison, sales for both Leopard and Tiger had declined by 60 percent by those operating systems' respective second week of release. Apple itself has not yet released sales figures.
In a separate report, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster previously forecasted that Snow Leopard would sell 5 million copies through the end of September.
The other "major OS upgrade" to which Baker refers is presumably Windows 7, which is scheduled for general release Oct. 22.
Faced with a declining revenue trend in the face of weak PC sales and a still-moribund economy, Microsoft has been ramping up what promises to be a massive marketing push to promote its new operating system. In addition to conventional methods such as television advertising, Microsoft has launched marketing maneuvers over the past few weeks aimed at IT administrators and procurement specialists within the enterprise.
In addition to targeting the consumer market, Microsoft would like Windows 7 to help Redmond keep its lock on end-user IT infrastructure within the enterprise. A Forrester Research report in early 2009 found that, while the Mac adoption rate for businesses in Europe and North America had declined to 3 percent by the end of 2008, Microsoft held 95 percent of that market.