Is Windows 7 a challenge to Mac? | Shanghai Daily

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October 23, 2009

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Is Windows 7 a challenge to Mac?

ALTHOUGH no one waits in long lines for a new edition of Windows anymore, the debut yesterday of Microsoft's latest software that runs PCs is part of why buying a computer is starting to feel fun for the first time in years.

Windows 7 is expected to work better than its predecessor, Vista. At the same time, Microsoft's marketing has gotten savvier and PC makers have followed Apple Inc's lead by improving hardware design. Computers with the Windows operating system suddenly seem a lot less utilitarian.

"If you line up the six or seven most interesting PC designs, people will say, 'Wow. I didn't know all of that could be done with a PC,'" Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in an interview.

Windows 7 is designed to look cleaner than Vista, streamlining the ways people can get to work, with fewer clicks and fewer annoying notifications. Setting up home networking to share photos and music won't require an advanced degree in information technology. Plugging in a new device won't set off a mad hunt online for driver software, which tells the equipment how to work with an operating system.

Making a version of Windows that people like, rather than tolerate, is critical for Microsoft. Most people don't choose Windows as much as they end up with it, because it's familiar and affordable. But it's conceivable Microsoft will have to work harder to win people over, thanks to a small but growing threat from Apple's Macs and a forthcoming PC operating system from Web search nemesis Google Inc.

Vista fell flat because it didn't work with many existing programs and hardware. Microsoft fixed many of Vista's flaws but didn't spread the word, instead allowing Apple to attack with ads that pit a dorky office stiff (PC) against a casual creative type (Mac) and paint Vista PCs as unjustifiably complex.

But Microsoft finally fired back. It hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a hip advertising firm, and set aside US$300 million to portray Windows as warm and human.

Apple now has 11 percent of the US PC market, up from 5 percent when Vista debuted, IDC said.

Windows 7 is arriving in the early days of a golden age for PC design.

For years, Apple has been making computers for people willing to pay a premium for design.

Now, PC makers are experimenting with size, shape and color.

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