A Hungry Leopard Sets Another Record

Some news stories make it sound like times must be tough for OS makers.  Microsoft’s Windows Vista received a lukewarm reception and was recently named PC World’s disappointment of 2007.  Among the issues cited for the dubious distinction were Vista’s various bugs that are to be fixed by service packs, confusing multiple SKUs, one-computer-only licensing, and sometimes substandard gaming performance. 

Indeed, Microsoft saw some customers flee back to XP after it opened up the option to OEMs.  Certainly Microsoft is not gloom and doom at these developments, and has made a healthy amount off of Vista, but they are hardly having a parade, either.

However, Apple Inc. is by no means sharing in these troubles and certainly has cause for celebration.  Its new operating system, OS X 10.5 Leopard, quickly moved 2 million units.  In its first month, recently released figures now show that Leopard was the best selling Mac OS — ever.

Microsoft’s Vista operating system, often the butt of many Apple jokes, sold 20 million copies in the first month.

Leopard brought in some serious money for Apple, with profits up 32.8% in the first month from the previous OS, Tiger (OS X 10.4).  NPD, one of the most well-respected market research firms, investigated sales figures at Best Buy, Target and other online and store-based retailers and found that Leopard moved 20.5% more units than Tiger in its opening month.

Apple forecasts rapid growth in its PC and notebook sales, spurred partly by Leopard and its various i-Products.  Apple’s computer sales for September made up 12.2% of the U.S. indirect sales market, or sales from online or offline stores.  This is almost double the January 2006 percentage, at 6.56%, according to NPD.

NPD indicates that Apple has the high end market cornered.  In the market for so called “premium” PCs — computers over $1,000 — Apple computers accounted for 57.53% of September sales, where in January 2006 it only accounted for 17.91% of sales.  This increase is over three fold and is even more staggering.  Apple’s solid sales on the high end mean that despite not having the highest sales volumes, it is grabbing a substantial share of the market dollars.  According to NPD Apple earned 22.9% of the total money spent on PCs in September.

Why the sudden success?  Well, its not entirely clear, but the success of the iPhone across many different demographics, a refreshed iPod lineup, and friendly family license deals — which offer five licenses of Leopard for the price of two — may partly account for the great gains.  Windows Vista had a similar promotion, but it ended in June, and Microsoft declined to renew it. 

Many also enjoy Leopard’s attractive interface.  Downsides include that OS X updates are more frequent than Windows, warranting more purchases, and many software programs are still not compatible with OS X, but much of the sting of the latter is remedied by the inclusion of Boot Camp, which allows you to run a copy of Windows for non Leopard compatible programs, on the same computer.

Apple has always been an aggressive corporation that has had its ups and downs.  It works very hard at times to keep its software and hardware proprietary and closed, something which at times has been a blessing and at others times a burden.  Still, its recent efforts have yielded torrid success, and Apple is now treading on unfamiliar territory.  Could an iteration of OS X ever be a legitimate contender for dominance over a Windows version? 

That hypothetical battle has yet to be realized, but for now Apple can be pleased that its setting records and making a whole lot of money.

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