Will Leopard be a Win or a Loss for Apple?

Leopard alters the PC space by loosening the ties between Apple hardware and the Mac OS. Is this good for Apple? Plus: should Apple pre-Load Windows?


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Posted October 27, 2007

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

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With the launch of Leopard we’re all doing our regular “if Apple wins, Microsoft loses” traditional dance, but this time the product and promise are different.

With this one we have a mature Bootcamp offering and a number of strong dual OS alternatives that will run with Leopard and Windows, allowing both OSes to reside on one piece of Apple hardware. We also have some folks, once again, suggesting that maybe it’s time for Apple to consider putting Windows (which after Vista SP1 should run native on Apple hardware) on their hardware officially.

This got me once again thinking about the fact that Apple is a hardware company, much like Sun is, and not a natural competitor for Microsoft. One of the strongest software products on the Mac is Office for the Mac from Microsoft. I think it is time to look at whether Leopard could actually be revenue positive for both companies, and revisit whether it has to hold true that if Apple wins Microsoft loses.

Two OSes, One Piece of Hardware

What got me looking at this differently was a review of what’s happening in education with regard to Apple sales, coupled with what’s happening with Boot Camp in Leopard.

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In education, in organizations doing graphic arts and multi-media content creation, Apple sales are up sharply, but so are traditional workstation sales from other vendors. Right now the two systems often co-reside. Folks have to be able to work on both from a training and execution standpoint.

But with Leopard, there is an opportunity to put both Windows and MacOS on the same Apple hardware, reducing the cost of the hardware by half, the power consumption and heat by half, and potentially reducing some of the support costs. I say “potentially” because in a dual OS situation I have seen instances where support problems can be marginally higher.

Given that Windows Vista SP1, which better supports Apple hardware, will benefit from such a scenario, this trend could drive new Apple hardware. And probably drive more expensive Apple hardware than otherwise would have been purchased, Leopard, AND Windows Vista along with related applications for both platforms into related segments.

This could go beyond just education because the same benefits could apply wherever Macs and Windows Machines have to co-reside, which is in many agencies, graphics/Web/content creation departments, publishing, and media editing firms. Under this scenario both Apple and Microsoft benefit broadly with the transition and – rather than fighting each other – would be better served making the related solutions more seamless and interoperable. Happy customers for both are good sources of revenue for both. And while this would probably upset the traditional Windows OEMs, it would give Apple a bidding advantage they’ve never enjoyed.

Should Apple Pre-Load Windows?

The way we have always looked at this was: should they pre-load Windows instead of the MacOS? And the answer has always appeared to be a resounding no.

But, with Bootcamp coming off of beta and into Leopard, they effectively officially support systems with two operating systems. So why not preload both and better ensure what the customer gets works out of the box?

You could argue that if they do this, application developers who are on the Mac would be motivated to just develop for Windows because it would be the most common. But wouldn’t this be true regardless of whether Apple preloaded Windows, as long as it was known the user was using Bootcamp for this?

By preloading, Apple doesn’t increase their exposure, they improve the user experience – and may actually create a strong advantage that could get them into the enterprise.

Next page: Apple's advantage in the enterprise

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