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Apple's Snow Leopard beats Windows 7 on price, ship date

Gregg Keizer | June 9, 2009
Exec calls Windows 7 'same old Vista,' but analysts doubt Apple's lower price, earlier launch matter

On price, Apple looks like the clear winner. While Microsoft has not yet revealed Windows 7's prices, it's hard to believe that the company would match Apple's $29 for a single-user license to upgrade from Leopard or the $49 cost of the five-license Family Pack. According to a leaked Best Buy memo, for instance, the retailer will sell a $50 upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium, but only for 16 days starting June 26.

Again, the analysts didn't think the numbers matter as much as some might think. "In the long term, [the price difference] has no impact," said Krans. "The challenge of Windows 7 is reaching those usability and performance standards that weren't met with Vista."

Silver, however, took a different tack. "I think the pricing of the next release [of Mac OS X] will be more telling," he said. "Is this release $29 because it's more of a Leopard refresh, and will the next release go back to $129?"

But he also saw some gamesmanship in play. "There could be some desire from Apple to force Microsoft to price Windows 7 more aggressively, and cut into their upgrade revenue."

From Krans' view, Microsoft would be smart to ignore the slings and arrows of Mac users bragging that Snow Leopard ships first and costs less. "What Microsoft needs to focus on, and what they are focusing on from all indications, is on what people want. And that's [an OS that is] quicker and lighter and gets what you need to get done, done."

Both Apple and Microsoft also have plans to provide free or nearly-free upgrades to their new operating system for customers who purchase a computer in the months before the OS releases.

Apple announced its program, called "Mac OS X Snow Leopard Up-To-Date," today, saying the people who buy a qualifying Leopard-powered Mac between June 8 and Dec. 26 will be offered a copy of Snow Leopard for a $9.95 shipping and handling charge.

Microsoft unveiled the name of its program -- "Windows 7 Upgrade Option" -- but little else last week. Other sources, however, have been reporting since January that the deal will run from June 26, 2009, to Jan. 31, 2010, and provide free or discounted upgrades from Vista to Windows 7.

Apple's Snow Leopard announcement came at WWDC, where company executives, led by Philip Schiller, Apple's head of marketing, also launched a top-to-bottom refresh of the company's laptop line and introduced the iPhone 3G S smartphone.

As expected by many, though not all, analysts, CEO Steve Jobs, who is on medical leave until the end of this month, did not make an appearance.


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