What if Windows 7 is Actually Half-Decent?

by Chris Howard Apr 22, 2009

I read with interest an article on Windows 7 and how Microsoft may actually be listening properly to users. You read it and see hope for our poor Windows friends and their 20th century operating system. We can have a chuckle about it, but if Microsoft really does release a decent OS it would undermine some of OS X's advantages and bring the Mac back to the pack.

A lot of folks argue that Apple is a hardware company. But the reality is Apple is a software company because Apple is nothing without OS X. OS X is what makes the Mac a Mac.

Take OS X out of Apple and it's left as a high quality PC maker. Without OS X, the Mac is just a PC.

Take Macs out of Apple and it's an OS developer, left competing directly with Microsoft and Linux.

Clearly it is in Apple's best interest to have both legs as they are obviously complementary; however it's also clear that Apple is it's operating system. It's whole cultural and image has grown from first Mac OS and then OS X.  The hardware may be lovely design, but it's merely and extension of the OS's design.

If Macs and PCs had to compete on equal footing, i,e. the same OS, and so Macs had to compete as the supposed luxury computer that apple and it's fans make Macs out to be, they could really struggle.

If you could buy a PC or a Mac pre-installed with the OS of your choice, how long would Macs survive? It's no wonder Apple doesn't allow OS X on non-Apple branded hardware. The Mac wouldn't survive. Although OS X would probably boom.

Of late there's been an ocean of discussion about Apple hardware, mainly because of Microsoft's latest ads which compare not OSes, but hardware.

Windows runs on Macs and OS X runs on PCs, which removes hardware from the equation, and which Microsoft's ads cleverly do so as well. This is why apple is holding out on licensing os x. It doesn't want to prove that it's not about hardware. Those ads already show that talking hardware alone brings Apple back to the field.

This is why Microsoft is not talking Windows and why Apple and it's faithful continually ice their cake with OS X when the "Spec-for-spec Macs are he same price" rgument falls on deaf ears.

But what if Microsoft's icing was nearly as good?

In its current form, ie vista, Microsoft is reluctant to talk about Windows and can't wait to get the rather promising Windows out the door.

Windows 7 may just provide a user experience to seriously challenge OS X. If that happens that will leave Apple only one club in the bag, that is security, or more specifically malware.

The problem there though for Apple is modern malware is not just viruses. The modern tool of choice in the malware world is Trojans. And all computers are vulnerable, Macs included, because Trojans bring the fallibility of humans (some would say stupidity) into the equation. And there's no security on any system that can outwit stupidity.

So if Apple has to compete on equal terms with Microsoft, no longer having its main points of difference, where does it leave it?

It leaves it with the iPhone. The iPhone is my #1 computer and becoming more and more so for many other users. It may only have a few % of the smartphone market, but it has almost 100% of the ultrasmartphone market. 

However, Microsoft trails the pack miserably. It has been spending all its efforts just trying to catch apple on the desktop. Which as Chris S insightfully pointed out, is yesterday's game that Apple has moved on from, or at least trying to.

Once Microsoft gets serious about today's game, that is the battle for the computer in your pocket, apple will be the Microsoft of that market in terms of marketshare and it will be trying to play catch up.

Windows 7 will (okay, should provided Micosoft doesn't "do a Vista") pose a serious threat to OS X. However, the halo effect of the iPhone should help counter that. If (as Microsoft's ads are now telling us), PC users should consider a Mac, those with iPhone's will be much more likely to buy one.

Desktops are going to be around for a lot longer, albeit with a diminished role, but without the iPhone, Windows 7 could have made Apple's job a lot harder.


  • The question is, how closely should Apple tie the iPhone to OS-X?  I mean in terms of should Apple intentionally make the iPhone-OS-X experience richer, more functional than iPhone-Windows?

    My gut instinct is no.  Otherwise it’ll be like Windows-Office where each product’s technical advancement is hampered by the additional requirement that it defend the other’s market position.  The best way to insure that iPhone and OS-X remain at the cutting edge is to aim for being the best, period.  Not the best OS for iPhone users, or the best smartphone for OS-X users.

    tundraboy had this to say on Apr 22, 2009 Posts: 132
  • To try and define Apple as a software company or a hardware company is simplistic. Their competitive advantage as a company is the quality of their OS, but obviously this is no match in a licensed OS face off with Windows’ entrenched market domination and lock in due to software compatibility. So the best way to monetize your advantage is to sell the only hardware in town that runs your OS. Because it’s near impossible for new players to enter the high quality OS market, you’ve created a legal monopoly (for want of a better word) for this segment of the market. This means you can limit your hardware range to higher end offerings to maximize profit margin. Both software and hardware are essential for Apple’s success.

    Kash had this to say on Apr 22, 2009 Posts: 12
  • Unless Microsoft builds Windows 7 on top of Unix, it won’t work for me.  Now if it does incorporate Unix the same way OS X does, then I would take a look at it.  Especially when I can build a good PC for far less than I can buy a Mac Pro.  In my dream world, Adobe would release Photoshop and Premiere Pro for Linux.  Then I would definitely build a PC.

    jocknerd had this to say on Apr 22, 2009 Posts: 23
  • I’ve been pretty happy with Vista, so improvements would be welcome.  But the reality is that the desktop as we know it isn’t going to see a lot of revolutionary changes.  Both OS X and Windows have pretty much reached parity in terms of stability and ease-of-use, with a few differences that give an advantage of one over the other depending on what you want to do.

    So I don’t expect the desktop world to change all that much with Windows 7, just like it didn’t really change that much with Vista’s failure.  While a few opted to switch, the vast majority have simply chosen to stick with XP, but it’s still all Windows.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Apr 23, 2009 Posts: 2220
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