Windows 7 vs. Mac OS X Snow Leopard: competitive origins

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
The tech media is working to pit Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 release against Apple's new Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, but the two products aren't really direct competitors.



The operating system most users end up with will depend upon what hardware they choose to buy, not the specific feature details of the software that system happens to run. History reveals that the hardware decision isn't going to be based primarily upon features.



The following presents a historical overview of the competition between Apple and Microsoft in the operating system market leading up to this year's face off between Windows 7 and Snow Leopard. While modern Macs can now also run Windows, Apple is the only PC maker to refrain from actually licensing it from Microsoft as an OEM; in contrast, Apple's Mac OS X only legally runs on the company's own premium PCs. That has enabled Mac OS X to differentiate Apple's hardware from other PC vendors using easy to demonstrate software features and tighter hardware integration, winning back some of the ground Apple lost during the decade of the 90s.



How Microsoft inherited Apple's crown in the 90s



In the 90s, Microsoft and its entourage of Windows PC makers came to largely view Apple as nearly irrelevant, but once Mac OS X arrived and began to catch the attention of users with its slick and sophisticated graphics compositing, its malware-free computing experience, and its unique and consistent interface features, Microsoft was pressured by its licensees to catch up so they could offer a competitive product.



Mac OS X essentially reset the clock for Apple, turning back time to 1990, when the company commanded a greater than 10% share of the entire PC market and dominated nearly all graphical desktop computing. Back then, the remainder of the PC market was running DOS, making it fairly easy for Apple to distinguish its graphical, easy to use product. Windows 3.0, the first version to ever ship installed on a new PC, hadn't yet arrived.



Perhaps things were too easy for Apple; rather than aggressively competing against DOS PCs, Apple used its technical superiority to extract higher prices for its machines. The problem was that Apple's boutique market lacked a boutique outlet for sales. The company was forced to sell its Macintosh models next to cheaper DOS PCs in computer stores and general retailer such as Sears, where they sat at the mercy of retailers who had no incentive to sell Apple's product, as they were making higher margins on the DOS PCs.



Microsoft's command-line DOS operating system.



As Mac sales remained flat, PC sales began to climb rapidly. Microsoft's continuous, incremental updates to Windows also began to blur the line between the Mac experience and that of DOS PCs with its Windows shell installed. Additionally, while Microsoft was building Windows from a relatively clean slate, Apple's Mac OS was tied up with early 80s legacy issues, including a simple cooperative multitasking model and a complete lack of modern operating system features such as protected memory, secure user accounts, and file permissions.



Windows 3.0 was the third major release of Microsoft Windows, released on May 22nd 1990.



Rather than delivering a technology overhaul, Apple released a series of code names for software that never materialized as promised, including Taligent, Copland, and Gershwin. By the end of the 90s, Apple had lost its position as the leader in graphical desktop computing to the point where many observers had forgotten it ever had defined innovation in the industry. Fortunately, the company had a comeback plan thanks to its merger with NeXT and the homecoming of its CEO, Steve Jobs.



A diagram of Copland's runtime architecture based off of one from Apple.



The tables turn in the 2000s



At the beginning of the 2000s, Microsoft had just released Windows 2000 (aka Windows 5.0), a mature and stable revision of its new Windows NT operating system that was developed to replace the DOS Shell version of Windows it had sold as Windows 95/98/Me. Microsoft's competition was all but gone, with Apple down to a roughly 2% share of the worldwide market for all PCs and servers, and IBM's OS/2, NeXT, BeOS, and other desktop operating system competitors out of the picture entirely.



Windows 95, released Aug 24, 1995 (left) and Windows 98, released Jun 25, 1998 (right).



The company's worrisome monopoly trial was about to be set aside by the new Bush Administration, and Microsoft was close to releasing a fusion of Windows 2000 and its consumer hardware-friendly Windows 98 as Whistler. Beyond that release, the company laid out a roadmap including Longhorn and Blackcomb to guarantee that the company could remain at the forefront of desktop PC software innovation as long as it could continue to repress any legal actions challenging its rise to the top through exclusive contracts with OEMs that prevented competitors from entering the operating system market.



Windows 2000 was released February 17, 2000 and targeted business desktops, notebook computers, and servers.



Microsoft was ultimately able to successfully pay off or scuttle any significant legal problems, but it was hit by a new challenge: a festering rash of high profile security flaws tied to its early 90s, pre-Internet legacy. Suddenly, the company was finding itself in the position of Apple a decade prior, with a complicated software roadmap riddled with potholes, a product that was facing increasing price competition (thanks to Linux and other free software), and new competition from Mac OS X that rivaled its position as the leader in desktop innovation.



Windows XP vs. Mac OS X



Microsoft's Whistler, delivered as Windows XP, was internally Windows 5.1, a minor update to Windows 2000. However, with the security work Microsoft had to assume, XP would end up being the company's primary OS throughout the decade. Even two years after the release of Windows Vista (6.0) in 2006, which sprang from Longhorn but took far longer to complete than planned, nearly 80% of Microsoft's installed base remains on XP, and the company's hardware partners continue to advertise their systems' ability to revert back to XP as a feature.



Released on Oct 25, 2001, XP was Microsoft's first consumer OS built on the Windows NT kernel and architecture.



In contrast, Mac OS X 10.0 debuted along side XP but was then updated in a series of major reference releases, including the free 10.1 update in 2001, the mainstream 10.2 Jaguar in 2002, 10.3 Panther in late 2003, 10.4 Tiger in early 2005, 10.4 Tiger for Intel in 2006, and 10.5 Leopard in 2007. While Microsoft released some "service pack" updates for XP during that time, only XP SP2 contained any significant feature updates, mostly related to patching up its security issues. Each of reference releases to Mac OS X delivered major new features, applications, and services for Mac users, in addition to performance enhancements that made the new software run faster even on older machines. Apple has also released dozens of free "service pack" minor updates to its reference releases of Mac OS X.



Mac OS X 10.0 "Cheetah," released Mar 24, 2001 (left) and Mac OS X 10.1 "Puma," released Sep 25, 2001 (right).



Another factor that changed the relationship between Windows PCs and Macs was Apple's development of new retail stores, both free standing outlets owned by the company and "store within a store" locations run inside retail partners' locations. These allowed Apple to showcase its differentiated machines isolated from Windows PCs that competed primarily on price, not on features and usability. The result was that Apple could now sell its machines' features on their own merits, rather than just struggling to match prices with lowball PC makers.



Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar," released Aug 23, 2002 (left) and Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther," released Oct 23, 2003 (right).



That retail strategy also shifted the pricing pressure of store brand and no-name PC makers against name brand manufacturers such as Dell and HP, forcing them to race to the bottom the the barrel in pricing, which subsequently resulted in poor product quality that further differentiated Apple's products from those of the other PC makers. Apple's retail stores are now allowing the company to experiment with new manufacturing techniques such as those used in the new unibody MacBooks, as well as higher end, environmentally friendly materials and customized silicon designs.



Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger," released Apr 29, 2005 (left) and Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard," released Oct 26, 2007 (right).



All of these integration enhancements fuse Mac OS X into the Mac hardware, making it increasingly less comparable to Windows as a retail product. Apple doesn't advertise Mac OS X as an alternative to Windows, it pits the Mac against generic PCs in more general terms.



On page 2 of 2: Vista vs. Mac OS X; and Windows 7 vs Snow Leopard.





Vista vs. Mac OS X



In contrast, Microsoft has had to keep Windows a general purpose, one-size-fits-all product that it can license to every PC maker on earth apart from Apple. Microsoft's business interests often fail to align with those of its licensees, resulting in skirmishes with its OEMs. These broke out particularly with the release of Windows Vista in 2006. For example, Acer was irritated by Microsoft's price hike on Vista and its strategy to sell the OEMs a crippled Home Basic version that users would have to upgrade directly with Microsoft in order to get the same features they had with XP. Dell and HP pushed back when Microsoft tried to cancel XP and make Vista the only option.



Vista ended up a colossal failure due to the way it was sold by Microsoft, its problems with existing hardware, incompatibilities with software titles, and its poor performance relative to XP, despite offering new features and, in particular, strong new efforts to bolster Microsoft's security reputation. Not even Microsoft's most loyal pundits could defend the release of Vista after months of sales data proved beyond any doubt that consumers didn't care about the new operating system's features or its security advancements; they were only upset that their existing software and hardware ran worse under Vista than it did under XP, and that Vista cost more.



Windows Vista was released Jan 30, 2007 to horrid reviews.



Those events set up circumstances that favored Apple's strategies: all Apple has to do is deliver incremental improvements to Mac OS X and its already happy and expanding pool of Mac users will remain loyal customers, while Microsoft is tasked with rethinking Vista to make it palatable to OEM licensees, suitable for existing users, and yet also feature competitive enough to compare with Apple's offerings. Additionally, Microsoft is running out of potential new customers as the PC market matures into a slow growth phase. Apple has lots of potential for growth, as it is now very profitable with less than 10% of the market, leaving it plenty of Windows users to woo over to its own platform.



Windows 7 vs Snow Leopard



With that background, the game is set for a rematch between Apple and Microsoft, with the Mac maker's latest Snow Leopard due in the first half of the year and Windows 7 aggressively scheduled to arrive shortly afterward. The next segment will look at how Apple plans to reward loyal Mac users while tempting Windows users to switch with Snow Leopard, and how Microsoft plans to correct its mistakes with Vista to regain the upper hand with Windows 7.



Windows 7 build 7000 was released publicly on January 7th, 2009.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 116
    I'm a huge Apple fanboy, but not the kind who doesn't take an objective look around. With that look into Windows 7, I've found the best version of Windows yet. I'm not switching by any means, but I've found the Windows 7 beta to be rock solid and aesthetically pleasing in my use so far. I'll even go so far as to say that Windows 7 beta is faster than OS X on my Mac Pro (in boot camp of course). Then again, I don't have the Windows beta loaded full of extensions, etc. as I do my Mac.



    That being said, Windows 7 is still the same old Windows underneath it all and from an IT standpoint, it still sucks as bad as any other version of Windows. So to recap:



    Windows 7 for Users = GREAT!

    Windows 7 for Admins (and advanced users) = SOS (Same ol' Shit)
  • Reply 2 of 116
    I don't know about Snow Leopard...unless they actually include every single little feature they first said would come with Mac OS X.6, I probably won't buy it. However, I am interested to see how Quicktime X will turn out?whether it'll be less than atrocious (like Quicktime 7.5.5) to maybe, hopefully even comparable to VLC.
  • Reply 3 of 116
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,934member
    A lot of people are going to get the wrong idea about Snow Leopard. Its not going to be a huge release from a feature stand point. Its a release with TONS of under the hood changes. A lot of changes typical users may never see. But this is a very necessary update for OS X to continue efficiently. One that can't just be in a dot dot release (Mac OS 10.5.7 for example). This is something Microsoft should at least step back and take a look at instead of just trying to force new features and technologies over top of old, outdated, clunky code. Apple trying to sell Snow Leopard for $129 isn't going to help anything either....
  • Reply 4 of 116
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macxpress View Post


    A lot of people are going to get the wrong idea about Snow Leopard. Its not going to be a huge release from a feature stand point. Its a release with TONS of under the hood changes. A lot of changes typical users may never see. But this is a very necessary update for OS X to continue efficiently. One that can't just be in a dot dot release (Mac OS 10.5.7 for example). This is something Microsoft should at least step back and take a look at instead of just trying to force new features and technologies over top of old, outdated, clunky code. Apple trying to sell this for $129 isn't going to help anything either....



    I was assuming people would notice ... things like speed / usefulness with cores/gpus with opencl grand central; it just wouldn't be fancy new features, but still noticeable through its increased speed/security.



    Also, my favourite part of that article was seeing how applications, like AOL, fell out of use between 2001 and 2006.
  • Reply 5 of 116
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,273member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by L255J View Post


    I don't know about Snow Leopard...unless they actually include every single little feature they first said would come with Mac OS X.6, I probably won't buy it. However, I am interested to see how Quicktime X will turn out?whether it'll be less than atrocious (like Quicktime 7.5.5) to maybe, hopefully even comparable to VLC.



    Quicktime X and Quicktime 7.x.x will co-exist as QTX is playback only. I don't expect it to be VLC without the help of something like Perian



    What features did they "say" would come out with that they didn't?



    I'm glad Windows 7 is an improvement. I'll run it in Bootcamp when I get hardware that's fast enough.
  • Reply 6 of 116
    Last year, my 2 granddaughters, my son and his wife, my sister and brother-in-law all switched to Macs on their own -- no prodding from me. My oldest daughter has announced her intention to switch in 2009. Market share be damned -- my own blog shows 34% OSX users (no, it isn't a Mac-oriented site). The statistic I'd like to see is market share in non-corporate environments -- market share of personal users.
  • Reply 6 of 116
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,934member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by joelsalt View Post


    I was assuming people would notice ... things like speed / usefulness with cores/gpus with opencl grand central; it just wouldn't be fancy new features, but still noticeable through its increased speed/security.



    I said typical everyday users, not professional users. But neither you nor I can say for sure...were both just assuming until it ships.
  • Reply 8 of 116
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,157member
    Nice article. Those images brought some memories
  • Reply 9 of 116
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,934member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    Quicktime X and Quicktime 7.x.x will co-exist as QTX is playback only. I don't expect it to be VLC without the help of something like Perian



    What features did they "say" would come out with that they didn't?



    I'm glad Windows 7 is an improvement. I'll run it in Bootcamp when I get hardware that's fast enough.



    I too would like to know what features were dropped. I guess the over 300 new features in 10.5 weren't enough???
  • Reply 10 of 116
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I'm very happy to see Windows 7 shaping up nicely for Microsoft. Firstly, because most of the world are Windows users and they deserve to have a modern OS that works well. Secondly, because as a Mac user this will push Apple to compete with and/or best Windows 7 more thoroughly.
  • Reply 11 of 116
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The company was forced to sell its Macintosh models next to cheaper DOS PCs in computer stores and general retailer such as Sears, where they sat at the mercy of retailers who had no incentive to sell Apple's product, as they were making higher margins on the DOS PCs.



    So true! Two of my friends worked at Sears "Brand Central" in the early 90's and they were commissioned salesmen. Before the Mac Performas arrived, Apple test marketed three Macs in retail, the Mac Classic, LC, and IIsi. The Macs did sell, but not as well as the PC's mainly because the margin was so low on the Macs, they didn't make any money. So they sold more PC's so they could make more money. Eventually the Classic, LC, and IIsi were replaced with the Performa 200, 400, and 600 models.



    Another thing they did to sell more PC's at the time was by demoing the just released game, The 7th Guest. Once the Performa 600CD arrived, they were able to demo Myst on the Mac. But the PC's still outsold the Mac because of the lower price and higher commission margins.
  • Reply 12 of 116
    The sad thing about the Windows 7 vs. Snow Leopard grudge match to come, is that while Snow Leopard will be a faster, more secure, and more advanced operating system in every way, all the appearances will be otherwise. Intelligent users that do their research already know to choose a Mac over a Windows PC, but the more "average" users only know that "Vista sucks."



    The new Vista (Windows 7) doesn't suck any more (at least to the casual observer).



    This is a problem and one that could very well see the OS-X adoption rate drop off significantly and even return to a pre-Vista level. The average user is a dumb little bunny and won't see any difference between Snow Leopard and Windows 7's aping of it.
  • Reply 13 of 116
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macxpress View Post


    A lot of people are going to get the wrong idea about Snow Leopard. Its not going to be a huge release from a feature stand point. Its a release with TONS of under the hood changes.



    whether that is true or not depends on how Apple presents the software.



    if they front is as a major overhaul under the hood etc then folks will get it. Same chassis as your current car, but with a more efficient engine.



    if they just kinda bleech it out there, then it won't fly in the general market.



    Quote:



    Apple trying to sell Snow Leopard for $129 isn't going to help anything either....



    that all depends on, again,m how it is presented.



    I suspect that SL will be marketed in conjunction with new hardware that will really tap the power and need the new system. for those consumers for whom it doesn't really matter they can keep their current machines on Leopard until that machine breaks and they want a new computer. then they get whatever is the current OS for free with the machine. which is dandy for them.
  • Reply 14 of 116
    Well as long as MS OS has a thing called "registry" their OS will forever become slower after a period of use unless you are the kind who get the OS, install MS Office and thats it kind of people.



    I cant wait for SnowLeopard, Im getting bored of the OSX look but I dun really mind the look, I prefer functionality and usability rather then flashy but not usable, like how crappy was the implementation of Flip3D. I prefer flashy, usable and functional though like TimeMachine!! Although I found bugs in Time Machine which could do fixing (Time Machine cannot delete x number of backups, it will give an error where u r required to exclude some stuffs from backup)
  • Reply 15 of 116
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by joelsalt View Post


    I was assuming people would notice ... things like speed / usefulness with cores/gpus with opencl grand central; it just wouldn't be fancy new features, but still noticeable through its increased speed/security.



    Also, my favourite part of that article was seeing how applications, like AOL, fell out of use between 2001 and 2006.



    Mac Box Set = Mac OS X + iLife + iWork for $169

    I'm waiting till the Box Set is updated to include Snow Leopard.

    Now that is a value!



    Snow Leopard will make older Macs run faster and smoother...this is a great way of rewarding loyal Mac users.

    It will be a very different experience than for those who purchased underpowered "Vista ready" computers only to find out Vista was too much of a hog.



    Apple should play this up in their marketing..."Its like getting a new Mac for $169."
  • Reply 16 of 116
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    The sad thing about the Windows 7 vs. Snow Leopard grudge match to come, is that while Snow Leopard will be a faster, more secure, and more advanced operating system in every way, all the appearances will be otherwise. Intelligent users that do their research already know to choose a Mac over a Windows PC, but the more "average" users only know that "Vista sucks."



    The new Vista (Windows 7) doesn't suck any more (at least to the casual observer).



    This is a problem and one that could very well see the OS-X adoption rate drop off significantly and even return to a pre-Vista level. The average user is a dumb little bunny and won't see any difference between Snow Leopard and Windows 7's aping of it.



    Well first of all I don't know how this is sad for you. If you like what you have then keep it. And how, long before the final release of either product are you saying, "while snow leopard will be a faster, more secure, and more advanced operating system in every way". You obviously don't know anything. There are so many factors to count in especially when it comes to speed. A previous poster said windows 7 beta was faster, I am sure other posters have had similar or opposite experiences depending on their machine and other things. So why don't we wait until the release to say which is better and for now you can say "snow leopard seems more inticing to me".
  • Reply 17 of 116
    I am excited to see which one does better, I am also excited to change all my xp and vista machines to 7 and I am excited to see how windows 7 works on my MBP.
  • Reply 18 of 116
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post


    Mac Box Set = Mac OS X + iLife + iWork for $169

    I'm waiting till the Box Set is updated to include Snow Leopard.

    Now that is a value!



    Snow Leopard will make older Macs run faster and smoother...this is a great way of rewarding loyal Mac users.

    It will be a very different experience than for those who purchased underpowered "Vista ready" computers only to find out Vista was too much of a hog.



    Apple should play this up in their marketing..."Its like getting a new Mac for $169."



    Don't forget about Marble.



    http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2009/...enamed-marble/
  • Reply 19 of 116
    "Vista ended up a colossal failure due to the way it was sold by Microsoft".



    Really? I know it took a long time to get to consumers and some people are irritated because it does not run as advertised on their machines and it's hard to discount the security problems Windows has... but my feeling is that Vista is like just about every other Microsoft product... they make the Chevy of the computer world - Apple makes the BMW.



    I think a more accurate way to say it is: "Compared with Windows XP, Vista was not as well received during the same release period due to the way it was sold by Microsoft".



    Many people I know who are on the PC platform love Vista and I suspect it was very profitable for Microsoft even with its troubled roll out. "A colossal failure" it was not, although it wasn't a raging success either and it ain't OSX by any measure.
  • Reply 20 of 116
    If you're going to use graphics from the Wikipedia, like the Copeland one, you have to attribute it.



    How do I know the Copeland graphic is volunteer work? I made it!



    When someone just rips it off it's galling, especially if it's volunteer work.



    Maury
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