The numbers are in and Windows 7 sales are strong, but with lagging PC sales and increased competition from other operating systems, is Windows in trouble? Apple recently reported one of its best quarters ever, and interest is high in current and future products coming out of Cupertino. Then there's the recent release of the latest Linux distribution, Ubuntu 9.10, and let's not forget pressure from Google Chrome OS, scheduled for release in the second half of next year. Put it all together, and we may be slowly approaching the end of Windows' dominance.
Windows 7 by the Numbers
Windows 7's U.S. sales were 234 percent higher over the first few days of its availabilty compared to Vista sales over a similar time period. But to get there, Microsoft had to go the extra mile and offer what were, by Microsoft standards, some deep discounts. The average selling price of Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade was $76, according to market research firm NPD group, which is significantly less than the advertised presale price of $120. By comparison, the original preorder price tag to upgrade to Windows Vista Home Premium was $160 in 2007.
Despite these discounts, PC sales are lagging, down 6 percent compared to Vista's launch period. This may include a number of factors including the availability of other versions of Windows (XP and Vista), which NPD says made up 20 percent of computer sales during the Windows 7 sales, as well as the reluctance among Vista owners to buy another new computer after upgrading just a few years ago. But if Windows 7 is set to boost a lagging computer market, as some researchers believe, current PC sales may be some cause for concern.
Earlier this year, Apple released its own updated operating system, Snow Leopard, which also saw a respectable increase in sales. NPD Group measured the new Mac OS' performance over a two-week period, and said Snow Leopard sales were more than double its predecessor, Leopard, over the time frame. Recently, Apple reported that sales for its Mac computers grew by 17 percent during the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same quarter in 2008.
The Linux Gang
But Apple isn't the only competition Microsoft has to worry about. Ubuntu, one of the world's more popular Linux distributions, recently launched its latest version, Ubuntu 9.10, and impressions about the new OS are largely positive. Of course, this is not the first time that a Linux OS has been praised, and seen as the Linux version that is finally ready for widespread adoption. But Ubuntu 9.10 does offer improved compatibility with peripheral hardware such as printers and scanners, there are a wide variety of available applications for the OS, and Ubuntu is absolutely free making it a significantly cheaper alternative to Windows.
Then there's Google's coming Linux-based OS alternative, called Google Chrome OS, that many tech pundits are excited about, but nobody's really sure what the new system will be able to do. But given current interest, Chrome OS could be a big hit when it debuts next year.
With so much variety in the world of the operating system, is Microsoft's dominance threatened? For the moment, no. Windows is still the dominant operating system in the U.S., but it is slowly losing market share to Apple, Linux and others. Microsoft is still the top for now, but for you there's never been a better time to try out an alternative to Windows.