Could Windows XP actually help Mac sales?

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Microsoft may be spending US$1 billion to promote Windows XP, but Apple is convinced that Windows XP's endorsement of technologies that first appeared on the Mac (802.11b wireless networking, CD burning, DVD playback, movie making and retrieval of digital camera images, for instance) will help Apple system and software sales, ZDNet News columnist Joe Wilcox says.

Though Apple says that the differences between the two operating systems are greater than ever, consumers will see many similarities between the two products at first glance, he says. The determining factor may come down to the "deftness of the marketing Apple employs to woo back customers who once used a Mac," Wilcox says.

"There are lots of Windows users who used to own a Mac," Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide marketing, is quoted as saying. "We're starting to see a combination of things getting those customers interested in our platform again."

Charles Smulders, a Dataquest analyst, told Wilcox, "there is certainly an opportunity for them, given 95 percent of the market is not Apple. The question is, will the value proposition Apple is providing be enough to persuade users to switch to the platform? Obviously, the current market is very difficult and people tend to be more value-oriented."

Mac OS X offers the most attractive price tag. The $130 cost applies to both consumers or businesses. Windows users looking at XP can upgrade to the consumer version for $100, but the full consumer version or business upgrade costs about $100 more and up to $300 for the full professional edition. Of course, Windows converts would have to buy a new Mac, Wilcox notes. When it comes down to the price of hardware, you can pick up a Wintel system for very little, but, when it comes down to actual bang for the buck, Mac hardware has the edge.

Besides bargain hunters, expect a strong repeat buying market this holiday season. And Apple clearly has the potential to pick up Windows sales there, Smulders told Wilcox.

Schiller agreed.

"While people are price conscious right now, many people this holiday season are more likely to be buying that second or third computer," he said. "These more knowledgeable shoppers will be more interested in the forward-looking technologies."

This story, "Could Windows XP actually help Mac sales?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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