Kathleen Hall, the new Marketing GM, was hired from an advertising agency and has a grasp of marketing that is the equal of anyone at Apple, including Steve Jobs (though Steve has other assets well get to later). Her first real project was the currently running Windows campaign, which has had a strong positive impact on Microsofts image and the sales of Windows Vista. But her real challenge will be the Windows 7 launch.
In the other corner is Steve Jobs who is a legend in marketing and has the added advantage of controlling his entire company and getting whatever funding he needs for any project he wants to undertake. He now appears to be back in the job. And while much of his time is now spent husbanding the iPad to market its clear he is playing this competitive operating system launch event like a master would play chess.
This could be the closest thing to a real battle royal weve had between the two companies since the 80s and may be the last one that Steve Jobs personally leads.
Lets look at the likely battle plans and outcomes.
The Field of Battle
This is an ugly battlefield this year. The economy in most of the world really stinks and here in the US corporations have all but stopped making new technology purchases.
Users the US in large numbers have lost their jobs and a lot of their spendable income was just siphoned off into a massive program designed to eliminate a massive inventory or aging new cars to help save (but possibly only defer the death of) the auto companies.
While the economy appears to have bottomed, people are still saving at an unprecedented rate, which removes much of the money that would otherwise go to new PCs from the segment. The PC OEMs are sweating bullets that they may have overbuilt for the 4th quarter. There are several other big product announcements that could reduce the available funds.
The biggest is an anticipated new device, ironically enough, from Apple believed to be called the iPad. Its a Jumbo iPod designed to compete partially with Windows-based Netbooks and broaden Apples revenue base in this troubled holiday season.
Windows 7 is the primary weapon in Microsofts arsenal targeted at this fight. It couldnt come at a better time in Microsofts history.
Windows Vista wasnt well liked, even though by this time it is acceptable to most of those currently using it. Windows 7 promises a number of advantages over both Windows Vista and Windows XP, including security and performance improvements, a cleaner user interface, major advances in computing power and graphics, and a simpler licensing scheme.
Microsofts secondary weapons are the biggest same-time hardware refresh in the history of the PC industry since Y2K. From very small notebooks to luxury and performance products peppered with a massive increase in all-in-one offerings, the sheer number of products that will show up at the end of October when Windows 7 launches will be both impressive and daunting.
Longer battery life, longer lasting batteries, slimmer designs, much more in the way of discrete graphics, and a focus on design and complete lines that hasnt ever existed in the market. In addition there will be a number of high performance utilities, applications, and gaming products that will arrive in support of the launch.
Apple has Snow Leopard, which is the most Windows compatible product theyve ever brought to market. And with Microsofts own agreement to put Outlook on the Mac, Apple suddenly has a product that is better connected (includes Active Directory support) than is Microsofts own Windows Premium (which doesnt have Active Directory support).
Apple has already refreshed its notebooks but they are expected to refresh some of their desktops shortly in support of this new operating system. They have quietly improved security by adding a malware scanner to their basic load and have one OS update (Snow Leopard) that is priced at an incredibly aggressive level to create the impression that Microsoft is overcharging and to obfuscate Apples historically high system cost.