Windows 7 to open another round in Apple-Microsoft rivalry

Will Windows 7 blunt some of Apple's momentum? At least one analyst thinks it's possible.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Will Windows 7 blunt some of Apple's momentum? At least one analyst thinks it's possible. 

In a research note, JMP Securities analyst Samuel Wilson handicaps the Oct. 22 launch of Windows 7 (Techmeme, Microsoft statement). Wilson's big takeaway: Apple will grab the news flow with a new iPhone release, but Windows 7 may impact Mac sales shortly after. Indeed, Microsoft is already revving up the Windows 7 marketing and incentive machine

Wilson writes:

In all our work, surveys and channel checks, the biggest reason that Apple is preferred over PCs (Microsoft-based machines) is because of the Operating System. The hardware is a secondary reason, with many thin, light, and significantly cheaper PCs available today. The problem is that generally these machines run Vista, which by almost all accounts outside Microsoft HQ is a terrible OS. Rivals putting together good hardware, lower prices, and a decent operating system could equal a slowdown in Apple’s laptop and desktop sales.

That point raises an interesting question: Is the Mac resurgence a case of a Microsoft's fumbling of Vista? We'll never know completely but surely Vista gave Apple an opening it has exploited for two years with some great commercials. 

Also see: Windows 7 special report and most popular Windows 7 content

However, Wilson notes that Windows 7 appears to have what it takes to give Microsoft some momentum. Meanwhile, Microsoft's laptop hunters campaign appears to be working. 

Wilson relies on a brand perception survey to prove his point:

Recent brand and advertising trends hint that Microsoft is rebounding. BrandIndex and AdvertisingAge have reported that Microsoft’s recent Laptop Hunters campaign is helping improve Microsoft’s brand. According to BrandIndex, the perceptions of Apple’s and Microsoft’s “value proposition” has shifted dramatically since the campaign started in late March:

Based on daily interviews, BrandIndex found the 18- to 34-year old age group gave Apple its highest rating in late winter, when scored 70 on a scale of -100 to 100. However, the score began to fall shortly after and is roughly now 12.4. Microsoft has risen from near zero in early February to a value-perception score of 46.2, or over 3x that of Apple.

Among 35- to 49-year-olds, Microsoft saw a jump 2-3 weeks after the campaign started and momentarily overtook Apple. For consumers aged 50-plus, the two brands are basically tied.

Note: A score of zero means that people are giving equal amounts of positive and negative feedback about a brand.

Why do these nuances matter? Apple gets 35 percent of its sales from laptops and desktops. 

My hunch: After the iPhone buzz recedes, Microsoft's Windows 7 will have some time in the limelight. But then Apple breaks out the a tablet iPod to compete with netbooks and a new front in this entertaining rivalry is opened.

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