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Data Shows Snow Leopard Could Eat Windows 7 Alive

New data shows aggressive pricing and an easy upgrade path have translated into record sales for Apple's Snow Leopard operating system. That could spell really bad news for Microsoft.

New data from the NPD Group shows early sales of Apple's Mac OS X v 10.6 (also known as Snow Leopard) were strong and better than that of its previous two operating systems, perhaps largely due to aggressive pricing.

In a statement, Stephen Baker, an analyst for NPD Group, said data for the first two weeks of sales for Snow Leopard indicate "the ease of upgrading to Snow Leopard and the affordable pricing made it a win-win for Apple computer owners -- thus helping to push sales to record numbers." He added that "Apple has clearly demonstrated that aggressive pricing policies in this economic environment generate an outstanding consumer response."

What does that mean for Microsoft? Since Microsoft is set to price out at the higher end of the scale for Windows 7 -- or at least higher than Apple's Snow Leopard pricing -- the Redmond, Wash.-based company could have a big fight on its hands in the fourth calendar quarter of 2009.

While Microsoft is pulling out a lot of stops for Windows 7, including the opening of a series of Microsoft Retail Stores this fall around the same time as its Oct. 22 OS launch, there is no direct upgrade path from market-share leader Windows XP to Windows 7. In addition, executives at some large PC makers have been privately voicing concerns that businesses will simply ignore Windows 7 altogether, as they did with Windows Vista.

With Apple software priced more aggressively than Windows for the first time in recent memory, and with Microsoft already struggling with double-digit declines in its client software business, Microsoft could be in for an ugly time courtesy of its longtime rival from Cupertino, Calif.

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