One of the biggest issues facing Windows Vista was its lackluster response from the enterprise market. Many companies decided against switching. Vendors were forced to exercise Windows' "downgrade rights" to keep customers happy. And Microsoft was trying to find ways to get Vista into the enterprise.
But now that Windows 7 doesn't suffer from compatibility issues, it isn't as annoying as Vista, thanks to a reworked User Account Control system; and it's likely to be the most secure OS the company has ever released (another problem for Apple). Microsoft has redeemed itself in the enterprise. Apple now needs to wonder how (or rather, if) it can inch its way into the enterprise market as more companies than ever find reasons to deploy Windows 7. It puts Mac OS X firmly back in the consumer space.
How does Apple respond?
Though I highlighted three issues Apple faces, there are many more. The company might hold the high ground now when we compare Windows Vista to Mac OS X, but it won't for long. The more I use Windows 7, the more I realize just how great of an operating system it is. In turn, I quickly realize just how difficult it will be for Apple to do what Microsoft has done with future iterations of its own operating system. How can it improve its Dock to make it better than Windows 7's taskbar? How does it plan to attract more software developers if it continues its policy of closed-door politics? And most importantly, how does Apple plan to gain a foothold in the enterprise market if it has made no significant moves in that direction?
I know what you're thinking: it doesn't want to play nice with developers and it's happy in the consumer market. Plus, Apple is a hardware company.
OK, I can live with that. But consider the fact that it's the software that you interact with as your computer sits on your desk, collecting dust, and I think it becomes clear that Windows 7 could be a real problem for Apple. The way I see it, companies will find more reasons to deploy Windows 7. Employees at those companies will then start using Windows 7 and grow comfortable with it. And once it comes time to invest in another computer, it will be the OS they know from work - Windows 7 - that will be installed on their next home purchase.
All the while, Apple executives will be forced to find ways to trump Windows 7 to bolster sales. Based on my experience with both companies' operating systems, that won't be so easy.