Apple CFO: Vista No Threat

Peter Oppenheimer, speaking to investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco, which was webcast, also said the forthcoming Apple TV will ship by mid-month, after the Cupertino, Calif.-based company took extra time "to finish" the multimedia device. He said Apple continues to be price-competitive where it seeks to be in the PC space, and has seen strong growth in strategic segments.

During a question-and-answer session at the conference, the chief financial officer voiced a note of confidence when talking about the forthcoming version of the Macintosh OS. He drew a distinction between difficulties the market has had in rolling out Microsoft's Vista -- including driver compatibility and increased hardware requirements -- and Leopard.

"We really have simplified the installation process in such a way we don't think it's a deterrent to sales," Oppenheimer said. "In the time that it took Microsoft to develop Vista, we've come out with five releases of Mac OS 10. We think we have the gold standard in operating systems. We believe we have the superior OS in the market today, and Leopard will only extend that." In terms of security and other features and functions, he said, "I don't really see Vista as a threat."

Oppenheimer said that while some Apple software sales may slow down in the run up to Leopard's launch, the immediate release of an operating system traditionally has seen quick dividends. "The last release [the Tiger release], in its first quarter we had $100 million of OS sales in that quarter," Oppenheimer said. "Usually your first quarter is your best one."

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Apple is continuing to enjoy momentum in the PC space. During the last quarter of 2006, Apple's shipments of Macintosh-based computers jumped by more than 31 percent and the company's market share increased to 4.7 percent in the U.S., up from 3.6 percent the year earlier. And, while taking his shot at Vista, Oppenheimer did offer some support for the Parallels' virtualization technology that permits users to run both Microsoft and Macintosh operating systems on the same Apple PC.

"I believe Parallels is a great choice for customers, and people seem to be happy with that as well," Oppenheimer said.

Apple is set to roll out three significant new products within the next several months: AppleTV, set for shipping next month after a delay of several weeks; Leopard, due out this spring; and the high-profile iPhone, which Apple is slating for mid-year. Of those products, only Leopard will be widely available to the market through Apple solution providers.

AppleTV will be available to solution providers who meet certain requirements, including providing significant show room space in which to demonstrate the device to customers. "We plan to ship it this month to all resellers who want to carry it," the CFO said. Since Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the Apple TV at Macworld in January, Apple has told solution providers they will not be authorized to carry Apple TV unless they meet requirements, including a minimum amount of open space for customers in a store in which the solution provider can show demonstrations of the Apple TV to potential buyers.

iPhone will initially be sold only through Cingular or direct from Apple.