BW: Apple's Schiller sees opportunity for Mac with Windows 7 launch

Ken Ray
K. Ray|10.15.09

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BW: Apple's Schiller sees opportunity for Mac with Windows 7 launch
One week from today, Microsoft will try to shake the stink of Vista. BusinessWeek reminds the world that Microsoft is set to launch Windows 7 on October 22nd. I've got the day free, since all of my invitations to Windows 7 launch parties seem to have been lost in the mail.

As the spotlight shifts toward Redmond, WA, Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller says that Apple sees "a very good opportunity" in the Windows 7 noise, in an interview with Business Week's Peter Burrows.

While no one expects Windows 7 to be as poorly received as Vista, the new operating system will mark the first time in a long while that millions of PC owners will start looking seriously at replacing existing machines, especially with so many PC-people having skipped the purchase cycle when Vista came around.

And there's where Apple gets them. Or tries to, anyway.

Apple is likely to aim new ads at PC users, trying to pull them to the Mac side in the coming days. The ads will probably hit familiar points, such as the susceptibility to malware worn by Windows, and extra programs buyers get with a Mac out of the box, like iMovie and GarageBand.The pains of upgrading could also play into an Apple onslaught. Windows XP users will reportedly have to back up all their files to an external drive, reformat their PC, install Windows 7, then reinstall all of their old programs, assuming that the old programs are compatible and that they have all of their old CDs. So much work could leave PC owners ripe for the picking, in Schiller's estimation. "Any user that reads all those steps is probably going to freak out," says Schiller. "If you have to go through all that, why not just buy a Mac?"

Schiller's leap assumes that people will be trying to install the new OS on old hardware, something Microsoft is not assuming. Parri Munsell, Microsoft Director for Consumer Product Management, says, "For the vast majority of people that get Windows 7, most will move to new hardware."

Getting people to the stores might work in Apple's favor. Enderle Group principle analyst Rob Enderle thinks so, saying, "It could very well be a tide that lifts all boats. Windows 7, with a lot of marketing dollars, is going to drive a lot of people into stores. The extra traffic could actually help Apple." At the same time Enderle believes Microsoft has a better product this time around, saying, "Windows 7 is good. It doesn't have the problems Vista did, so (for Apple) gaining share gets a lot tougher." [Then again, that's Rob Enderle's opinion. –Ed.]

There's also concern that price will play against Apple. Years of hearing how much more expensive Macs are than PCs may cause potential buyers to shy away from Apple's machines. The average cost of a Windows PC is between $500 and $600 while the average price for a Mac is around $1,500, though there are more expensive PCs and less expensive Macs than the averages suggest. Still, price is seen as a vulnerability for Apple. While rumors have swirled for months that lower priced Mac laptops and desktops are on the way, they remain just rumors.

At the end of the day Schiller seems confident in Apple over the long haul, because while Mr. Softy may have a new OS, he's still Mr. Softy. "We've been through these transitions before, and no matter how you look at it -- it's still Windows," says Schiller. "When all is said and done, the Mac picks up share a bit at a time."
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