Among the many questions that Windows 7′s imminent release is prompting is this: Will it result in fewer Windows users deciding to switch to Macs, thereby halting the slow erosion in Windows’ market share that we’ve seen during the Vista era? So far, there’s no consensus on wht’s likely to happen:a
- At Computerworld, Gregg Keizer reported on an analyst’s prediction that Windows 7′s release wouldn’t hurt Mac sales, and might even help them;
- BetaNews’s Joe Wilcox says the analyst’s analysis is wrongheaded, and that he thinks Windows 7 will put a dent in Apple’s growing market share;
- Daring Fireball’s John Gruber concurs with some of Wilcox’s take but says that the competition between Windows and Macs is pretty indirect;
- Peter Burrows of BusinessWeek interviewed Apple’s Phil Schiller, who contends that Windows 7 presents a good opportunity to sell more Macs, since buying a new Mac is easier than upgrading a Windows XP machine to Windows 7. (Um, wouldn’t you need to back up and restore data and reinstall apps if you were moving to the Mac, too?)
I’m not going to predict how Windows 7′ release will impact Mac sales–hey, making no predictions is the best way to avoid making boneheaded ones–but a few thoughts on the dynamics of the competition:
- Unless Windows 7′s driver situation is worse than it seems and/or PC manufacturers manage to screw the OS up with unwantedware, it’s going to make for better PCs than Windows Vista ever did;
- I’d still rate Snow Leopard as the better OS, but the gap between the two platforms is smaller than it’s been in a long time;
- Windows 7 doesn’t do much to reduce the need of Windows users to worry about security in a way that Mac owners don’t;
- It also doesn’t eliminate such Mac virtues as the bundling of iLife;
- As John Gruber says, the competition between Windows and Macs only happens at the high end of the market–most people who buy Windows buy it on cheaper, lower-end computers for which there is no Mac counterpart.
Ultimately, I keep coming back to the notion that most people really don’t have any particular desire to switch operating systems. If Windows 7 lives up to its promise and expectations, it’ll leave fewer Windows users tempted to dump the OS. But I suspect that most folks who have made the jump to the Mac aren’t coming back.