Microsoft has been and for the foreseeable future will be the most dominant force in the desktop operating system market. The company’s Windows has been deployed by millions of companies around the world, as well as by an overwhelming number of consumers who want to be more productive while home or on the road. With each new version of Windows, it’s clear that Microsoft has what it takes to keep those people coming back for more.
But atthe Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 6, Apple fired its latest shot at Microsoft in the companies’ ongoing operating system battle. For years now, the firms have been trying to best the other on the desktop. But now, it’s clear that mobile operating systems and even the cloud are becoming weapons in that war.
Apple has opened several new fronts in its war against Microsoft, and if it can follow through on its promises, it might go a long way in hurting Redmond’s operating systems.
Read on to find why Apple is in position to gain ground in its war against Windows.
1. The digital-only Lion
Arguably the most surprising shot over Microsoft’s bow at the Worldwide Developers Conference was Apple’s announcement that Mac OS X “Lion,” the next version of its flagship operating system, will be available as a download from the company’s Mac App Store, rather than sold as packaged disks in-store. Even more importantly, it will be available for just $29.99. Apple has changed how operating systems are sold, and now the pressure is on Microsoft to respond.
2. Lion’s multitouch
When Apple first announced Mac OS X Lion last year, the company said that it had designs on bringing iOS-like functionality to its operating system. At WWDC on June 6, Apple made that clear by showing off several multitouch gestures, including pinch-to-zoom and swiping, working with Macintosh applications. Considering Microsoft is trying to make Windows 8 more tabletlike in its functionality, it looks like Apple might have beaten it to the punch.
3. The Mac App Store
In Windows 8,Microsoft will likely offer an applications marketplace that will allow users to download programs from the operating system, rather than be forced to buy software in-store and install it. The only issue is that Microsoft will be late to the game. Apple’s Mac App Store is already available on Snow Leopard, and the company is planning to build it into Mac OS X Lion. In addition to its current functionality, Apple said at WWDC that it plans to bring in-app purchasing and push notifications to its store.
4. It’s making Windows a component in its strategy
Apple also unveiled the long-awaited iCloud at WWDC on June 6. Furthermore, Apple said that Windows will be a component in its strategy to win the cloud race. Regardless of whether a user is running an iOS-based device, Mac or Windows PC, they will be able to use iCloud, share content with other products and much more. Microsoft doesn’t have a suitable competitor that can do the same. MakingWindows a piece of Apple’s iCloud strategy could eventually hurt Microsoft’s OS, especially if it encourages more people to switch to the Mac or diverts data that would go into a Microsoft Windows cloud to iCloud.
Apple Putting More Pressure on Windows Than Ever
5. The post-PC era?
Without mentioning Microsoft or Windows by name, Apple indicated that it believes the technology industry is moving past reliance upon the PC. It made that especially clear by saying on June 6 at WWDC that it will no longer require users to plug their iPhones or iPads into computers in order to update them. Instead, all updates will be made over the air as part of the acknowledgement that some people are opting for tablets and smartphones rather than laptops or desktops. Microsoft can’t be happy to hear that-and it can’t be happy to see Apple cutting tethering out of the iOS update process.
6. Bringing mobile to the desktop
With Windows 8, Microsoft has designs on bringing mobilelike functionality to the desktop. In fact, the operating system will come with “tiles” that users have grown accustomed to in Windows Phone 7. However, Apple is bringing its mobile functionality to the desktop as well. As mentioned, Lion will feature multitouch gestures, the Mac App Store and new features, like Mission Control, that offer a somewhat mobilelike design and functionality. Both Microsoft and Apple are planning to bring mobile to the desktop, but Apple is doing it first.
7. Making iOS devices more appealing
Windows Phone 7 is having trouble getting off the ground. Microsoft hopes that its partnership with Nokia (and time) will change that. But with more than 200 improvements coming to the iPhone and iPad with iOS 5, Microsoft might have some trouble. Apple has fixed many of the issues with iOS in its upcoming release by adding a better notifications system and over-the-air updates. Combine that with its new iMessage platform, and Windows Phone 7 might look even more obsolete than it does now.
8. The “it just works” mentality
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs discussed iCloud, he continued to reference the idea that “it just works.” The platform essentially takes data from several devices and pushes them out to others with minimal user engagement. The importance of that in the operating system war between Apple and Microsoft cannot be underestimated. Apple is delivering something unique and easy to use with iCloud. Plus, it doesn’t work with Windows Phone 7 or Android-based devices. If users enjoy using iCloud and see value in it, they might not hesitate to opt for the iPhone or iPad, rather than Windows Phone alternatives because of that.
9. Resume to the rescue
At WWDC on June 6, Apple talked about a new feature coming to Mac OS X Lion called Resume. The new feature allows users to pick up where they left off in an application after it’s turned off or the computer is restarted. It might not seem like a major update, but it is an important one. For years, users have been hoping to have functionality like that, and Apple is delivering what they have been looking for. Plus, Resume is just one of many new features that might make Mac OS X Lion impress Windows users, and it presents another reason why Microsoft should be scared.
10. Making developers think twice
Since the Mac App Store launched in January on Apple’s Snow Leopard operating system, it has caught on in a big way with customers. Apple said at WWDC that the store is now the world’s top channel for buying applications, overtaking Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Office Depot and other retailers in sales. This makes developing for the Macintosh and iOS more attractive than ever and could serve to make developing for Windows less attractive than ever.Apple’s top-selling marketplace might just turn out to be a more important weapon in its battle with Microsoft than some think.