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Apples’ (and Microsoft’s) Big Day

It’s been a long time for the MacNation since the last major OS X release – 30 months – but today is finally the day for Leopard to be set free. In less the 12 hours, the ca-ching of cash registers around the world will be heard as people plop down $129 for the “biggest update in Mac history”. There will be tons of media coverage and bloggers will be gleefully pounding out posts with reckless abandon.

Stepping back, it is interesting see how the computer industry works when it comes to the release of new operating systems – and the marketing frenzy that is unleashed on consumers who feel compelled to upgrade or, if needed, purchase a new computer so they use the new OS. I remember when Microsoft released Windows 95 (using the Rolling Stones “Start Me Up” as the official theme song). It was a huge marketing campaign with hundreds of millions of dollars spend by Microsoft. Same thing for XP and Vista, although I don’t remember quite the same excitement around Windows ME.

As a relatively new Apple user, I wasn’t really as cognizant of the marketing bonanza surrounding about Tiger or Panther, although I’m sure they it was a big deal for Mac users. But with Mac being used by more people and Apple now the belle of the ball, it’s easy to see why Leopard is such a big deal. (Note: For a different look at why people are so excited about Leopard, check out Four Reasons Why).

Why is it that new operating systems are marketed so aggressively? The most answer is they generate an awful lot of revenue and, in many cases, people have little choice other than to upgrade or go out and buy a new computer with, in theory, more useful bells and whistles. Sure, many consumers are holding off – like XP users are trying to do these days – but eventually you have to step up to the new OS, which reminds of that old Fram oil filter commercial with the tag line “You can pay me now or you can pay me later”.

It is ironic that on Apple’s Big Day, Microsoft has just reported extremely strong third-quarter results, driven by healthy sales of the much-maligned Vista, as well as Halo 3, Office 2007, Windows Server and SQL Server. Mary Jo Foley writes that Microsoft has now sold more than 88 million copies of Vista – many of them premium editions (aka the expensive versions).

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