FRAMINGHAM, 9 JUNE 2009 - Apple executives took potshots at Microsoft's Windows 7 today as they trumpeted the September release of the company's own Snow Leopard operating system and its US$29 upgrade price.
"What a big hole Microsoft has dug," Bertrand Serlet, Apple's head of software engineering, said during the keynote of the company's annual WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC), which opened today in San Francisco. "They're trying to get out of it with Windows 7 [but] it's the same old technology as Vista. Fundamentally, it's just another version of Vista."
But the more Serlet talked up Snow Leopard, the more he sounded like a Microsoft executive outlining Windows 7. Both Apple and Microsoft, for example, have described their next operating systems as less about new features and more about building on the foundation of their respective predecessors, with special emphasis on performance, stability and usability.
Serlet made that crystal clear. "We love Leopard, so we decided to build upon Leopard," he said. "We want to build a better Leopard."
That's not much different than what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said last October as he defended Vista while also claiming that Windows 7 would be a major release, something most analysts dispute. "[Windows 7], it's Windows Vista, a lot better," said Ballmer at the time.
Analysts noticed the similarities today. "People aren't interested in bigger and heavier, loading in all these features," said Allen Krans of Technology Business Research. "They want something that works, that's simple and intuitive to use."
"This just addresses the reality," added Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "In both cases, we are dealing with companies offering updates to fundamentally mature products. There will be some additions due to new hardware support -- Blu-Ray, for example -- but to a large extent, what is going to matter more and more is security, stability and performance."
But Apple did highlight two differences between Snow Leopard and Windows 7 today: The former will beat the latter to store shelves, and Apple's OS will cost considerably less than Microsoft's.
Although Apple didn't pin the release of Snow Leopard to a specific day in September, if it meets its schedule, Mac OS X 10.6 will appear weeks before Windows 7. Last week, Microsoft announced Windows 7 would go on sale Oct. 22.
But does it matter? Cherry didn't think so. "I don't envision that anyone is really saying to themselves: 'I need a new computer, and whoever ships first gets my business,'" he said.
Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner, agreed. "I don't think Apple beating Microsoft to release by a few weeks matters," he said. "They will both miss back-to-school and one could say that this may even be more important for Apple and thus a bigger miss."
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