Apple will also be launching their iPod updates (possibly including their new iPad) during the Snow Leopard launch window which should be able to bring more people to the Apple PC branded products and substantially increase traffic in Apple stores.
If the two products launched at the same time, the Windows PC extreme cost advantages in what is a very tight market would still likely give Microsoft a significant edge. Windows 7 is an easier upgrade from any Windows operating system than Snow Leopard can hope to be.
However they arent launching together and Apple will have nearly 2 months to pound on Microsoft before they can respond with product. I would expect a significant market share move unless Microsoft can shift promptly to the attack.
Apple will come out hard starting on Friday and hit Microsoft aggressively on Vista problems and Snow Leopard improvements. Theyll likely position Windows 7 as Vista SP3, the product that no one will ever like. They may even compare their upgrade price to Microsofts to offset Microsofts running campaign pointing out that the Mac is significantly more expensive.
Apple will make public the number of people switching from Windows to the Mac as soon as reliable numbers can be reported. And they will be working with the numbers houses (like IDC and NPD) to showcase what will likely be strong market share gains over the period.
They are also likely to run creative bundles with iPod offerings and PCs to drive people into stores and get sales up so they can appear unbeatable going into the 4th quarter.
Microsofts hands are somewhat tied in that they cant roll out their big guns, the new hardware that is coming early, because they dont own it.
But they can ramp up their own focus on Apple products being too expensive, roll in credible testimonials on how great Windows 7 is, and bring forward additional pre-order programs. In addition they could ramp their demand generation plan early. Although Apple hasnt given them much lead time to make these changes and their budget likely does not allow for this kind of massive adverse budget variance.
It is possible, given Apples sharp acceleration of the release of the product that it isnt done yet, that Steve is being Steve and ignoring the risks. This would mean lots of initial breakage and some of the new hardware may not yet be ready.
If accurate, this would give Microsoft some breathing room but this move by Apple likely caught Microsoft by surprise. And Microsoft, like a lot of large companies, isnt the most agile.
This reminds me of the movie 300 where the 300 Spartans had to hold off the Persians until Greece could be mobilize. Microsoft Windows Marketing is the 300 that has to hold off Apple until Microsofts much larger engine can be mobilized.
As I initially said this is the best marketing team Microsoft has ever fielded but they are going up against the best marketing company in tech, Apple, and the entire company is coordinated, making this a task (in terms of difficulty) not too unlike the Spartans in the movie. It is at moments like this history is made and it will be made for Microsoft or be still another part of Steve Jobs impressive legend.
The next few weeks should be very interesting to watch.