With Windows 7 finally on store shelves and updated Macs gracing Apple stores around the United States, a new era in the battle between Microsoft and Apple is under way. Microsoft has its new operating system running on PCs from several vendors. Apple has its own new operating system running on Macs. Each company is trying to convince users that its own service is better than the competition’s.
Meanwhile, the person buying the computer will benefit most. When two major companies battle it out with each other, it’s usually the user that wins out. Here’s why:
1. Competition is good
Although Microsoft commands a significant portion of the operating system market, the fact that Apple has had some success gaining market share over the past few years is good for the computer buyer. Microsoft needs to find a way to improve its offering to compete with Apple. Apple needs to find a way to continue staying one step ahead of Microsoft. And, in the end, it’s the person buying a computer who wins.
2. Software improvements
There’s little debating that Windows 7 sports several features that were inspired by Mac OS X. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Microsoft has realized both Windows Vista’s limitations and Mac OS X’s virtues. That has helped Microsoft make Windows 7, in my opinion, the most appealing operating system it has released in a long time. Mac OS X, a fine operating system in its own right, needs to be thanked for that.
3. Premium versus budget
Apple has decided that it is a premium provider of a premium product. With the release of a new slate of Macs, the hardware company has proven that if customers want elegance, sophistication and robust design, Apple will provide it. That said, the company has made its MacBook and Mac Mini affordable to those who don’t want to pay a premium price. It was undoubtedly a response to Windows-based alternatives.
Microsoft has designed its operating system to appeal to those who may or may not want to spend thousands on a new computer. Windows 7 Starter Edition works well with netbooks. Windows 7 Ultimate is ideal for high-end PCs. Simply put, customers looking to buy either a Mac or PC have a choice today when they head to the store to buy their next computer.
4. Price wars
When a battle between two big companies is waged, a price war inevitably erupts. When Apple released Mac OS X “Snow Leopard,” it offered the operating system for $29. A family five-pack went on sale for $49. Windows 7 is more expensive than Snow Leopard, but it’s actually cheap when we consider original pricing for Vista. It seems that Microsoft has realized that operating systems need to be affordable to appeal to users. That’s a good thing.
Microsoft, Apple Keep Upping the Ante
One of the main complaints about Windows is that it isn’t as secure as some users might want. Apple’s Mac OS X has held its own when it comes to security. Responding to that, Microsoft has done a fine job of delivering a more robust, secure Windows. At the same time, Apple has improved Mac OS X’s security features to try to keep users safe. Security is a major battleground between these companies, which can only mean that the fallout will yield better security for both platforms.
6. Keeps PC makers happy
When Microsoft offered Windows Vista, many PC vendors were unhappy with the software. Users weren’t buying Vista PCs. In response, vendors decided to offer “downgrade rights” to users who wanted to stick with Windows XP. The impetus to optimize hardware for a new Windows operating system just wasn’t there. But now that vendors expect big things from Windows 7, they can focus their energy on designing products that compete more aggressively against Apple’s beauties. That should mean users can expect better-looking hardware as Windows 7 and Snow Leopard battle it out.
7. Vastly improves the user experience
Microsoft realized its shortcomings in relation to Vista. It also took a beating for those shortcomings in Apple’s highly successful, “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads. Not wanting history to repeat, Microsoft has done a great job of making sure Vista’s glaring issues (driver support and User Account Control annoyances, to name a few) haven’t plagued Windows 7. In the process, it has succeeded at making Windows a more viable operating system. Apple should be thanked for that.
8. Innovation is (finally) a reality
If either Microsoft or Apple reigned supreme in the operating system market, the need for innovation in software design wouldn’t be great. Either company would be content to maintain the status quo. But thanks to the pressure Apple has placed on Microsoft, the software giant is willing to take chances. It’s willing to invest bundles of cash in fresh ideas. The Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 is a fine example of that. Without Apple’s help, it’s doubtful that Windows 7 would have come as far as it has.
9. Eye on the enterprise
As Microsoft and Apple keep battling out, the enterprise also stands to gain. Both companies realize the value the enterprise provides. They understand how important it is to succeeding in the computing business. And chances are, they will be more aggressive than ever in targeting the business world. PC buyers in that space will have a field day.
10. The future is bright
Thanks to the battle between Microsoft and Apple, one thing is certain: Both of these organizations are poised to invest in the future. They realize that the battle for dominance in the computing space will continue and revolutionary products can change everything. They’re also aware that giving the opposition an opening can prove troublesome. I think we can expect significant improvements and innovation in software design to come. And it will be the PC buyer who will reap the benefits of that.