Will You Ride the Mountain Lion or Stay Behind the Windows?
Rita is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Recently, the world’s greatest smartphone maker, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), launched its latest version of the operating system for its Macbooks and iMacs and named it the Mountain Lion. The OS, also formally known as OS X 10.8, is actually an improvement over Apple’s previous version of Mac OS Lion and is not a totally new platform. With this refinement Apple takes another step toward keeping its iUsers happy and satisfied within the boundaries of the iWorld. Thanks to the improvements, now a Mac user will find total synergy among Mac, iPad and iPhone.
But in a time when Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is ready to set the stage on fire with its absolutely new platform Windows 8 and there is a huge amount of excitement related to this, will just an upgrade work for Apple? Or will Apple suddenly lose its market share to Microsoft? Let’s look at what Apple is offering and how it is expected to do against Windows 8.
The value proposition
Like a typical Apple product, the Mountain Lion is a very attractive operating system with a whole lot of cool features and yet the simplicity is maintained -- exactly what users find attractive about Apple. The iPhone maker has equipped the Mountain Lion with 200 new features including features borrowed from the iPhone and the iPad. The new notification panel is a direct match with that in the iPhone. The OS also has the “share” button that allows the user to share anything on the screen on Twitter and Facebook, though sharing on Facebook is not going to be available before this fall. Apple has also hugely improved Safari, making it much faster than Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome, and also has the address-cum-search bar like the Chrome. And finally the two most attractive features are integration with iCloud and AirPlay Mirroring. If a user has an active internet connection and an Apple account, iCloud will allow the user to experience true synergy among all apple devices by transferring data in real time to the cloud server. The other Apple devices will constantly be connected to this server and will get updated automatically. While iCloud provides synergy between Apple devices, AirPlay Mirroring will allow users to share the contents on their Apple devices with their HDTVs.
Any person using a post-2011 Mac will get to upgrade to this OS for free, while anyone using a post-2008 Mac will have to buy the OS from the App Store after paying $19.99. The only pain point is, this time Apple has not made arrangements to make the OS available in discs or pen drives. Anyone who is interested needs to download the 4GB operating system from the App Store and in case the person uses a slow speed internet connection, the first point of contact with the OS will lead to a bad experience.
How it differs from Microsoft’s efforts
Apple seems to have taken a reverse approach to what Microsoft is working on. The Windows maker is trying to make its phones and tablets more and more like the Windows powered PCs, where as Apple is making its Mac more and more like its iPad and iPhone. The rationale behind the moves is simple to understand. For Microsoft, Windows is the ace revenue earner while for Apple its iPhone and iPad. Both the players are trying to capture the market with their core expertise. Apple has done some pretty amazing things with its handheld devices and has left its users gasping for more. It’s taking the best features from the devices and putting them in its Mac OS, thus bringing together the best of both worlds.
Though both Apple and Microsoft have a common vision of bringing together the smartphone, tablet and the PC world, they differ in their approaches. Microsoft is attempting to achieve its vision by introducing a brand new never-before seen platform while Apple chose to take a different way by slightly improving the already much acclaimed OS. Microsoft’s move is attracting a lot of attention and interest no doubt, but it will also attract big changes and huge installations. The company is redefining its offerings at all consumer electronics levels and thus bringing to the users a whole new experience. On the other hand, Apple at a much lower cost is attempting to leverage the special features from iPhone to enhance Mac experience instead of redefining the experience.
Concerns on competition
Apple with its Mountain Lion will not be competing with Microsoft only at the OS level, but also will have to fight the form factor. Apple has to offer iPhones, iPads and Macs with the iOS5, the Mountain Lion and in some time iOS 6 will also be in the list. Now, let’s see what Microsoft has to offer. To start with, a brand new OS with a fresh interface offering a total new experience. Next, a next generation tablet computer and thirdly, a smartphone OS that will transform the phone to almost a computer. Though an existing Apple Mac user will think twice before shifting to Windows, a person who is thinking of buying a new PC will actually consider a Macbook, Windows powered laptops or ultrabooks and definitely the Microsoft Surface. To a buyer, Surface will be more appealing than a full sized laptop, even if the laptop is a Macbook. With the Surface, Microsoft is trying to erase the thin line of difference between PCs and tablets and this probably will take a toll on the Mountain Lion’s new sales.
My final take
The two giants, Apple and Microsoft, have been at war with each other over dominance in the smartphone, tablet and PC space for quite some time now. Windows is the world’s most preferred computer OS while iPhone and iPad are the world’s most preferred smartphone and tablet. Both the players have been unbeatable in their own grounds and now both are attempting to invade enemy territories.
In my opinion, Apple still has an advantage over the situation. Apple’s cards are already out on the table and people have already bought the iDevices. Say a person has an iPhone, an iPad and also a Macbook. Will that person actually think of shifting to any offering from Microsoft? Probably no, unless he is a gadget-addict and has a huge, huge pocket.
Firstly, the moment he chooses to shift from in any device category, he will lose out on the facility of synchronized gadget environment. That person will neither get to enjoy Apple to the fullest extent nor Windows 8. Moreover, though shifting from Windows 7 to Windows 8 or from any other smartphone to a Windows Phone 8 powered phone is not going to be that costly, shifting to a Surface tablet, which is rumoured to be priced at $1,000 for the base model, will attract huge costs. For an all three Apple product user, getting the complete Windows experience is going to be very expensive.
Secondly, the crucial point in this entire technology movement is to provide the users with a unified synchronized software experience and thus making their work and life easy. If a user seeks this unified experience, but choose to buy an iPad and a Windows Phone, then he will simply get fragmented experience and the reason for all the innovations is lost.
Thirdly, Apple provides amazing seamless integration between the devices thanks to its iCloud. It is not know how well Microsoft can compete with this. Even if Microsoft succeeds in making this feature available, there are chances that it will not be as easy and as seamless as Apple’s. Because of all these, I feel Apple will get to enjoy its first mover’s advantage for a fair more amount of time and doesn’t need to worry much.
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