Apple immune to Windows 7 impact, analyst says

Analysis shows Mac sales typically climb after Microsoft unveils a new OS

Microsoft's introduction of Windows 7 later this month won't cost Apple any Mac sales, a Wall Street analyst said today.

"I analyzed the impact of the last four Windows launches and found no negative correlation between them and Mac sales," said Brian Marshall of Broadpoint AmTech. "In fact, [Microsoft's launches] almost act like a delayed accelerant on Mac sales."

After comparing Mac sales with the launches of Windows 98 in June 1998, Windows 2000 (February 2000), Windows XP (October 2001) and Vista (January 2007), Marshall found that in all but the case of Windows 2000, Mac sales either increased or stayed steady.

Mac sales jumped the most after Vista's introduction, according to Marshall's analysis, which many experts attributed to some Windows users' switching to Macs after they were disappointed by Vista's poor performance or put off by its lackluster reviews.

Marshall attributed Apple's ability to prevail in the face of new competition to the company's small slice of the total computer market share. "Apple's such a small chunk of the marketplace," he said, "that it's not dependent on others in the industry. As they get bigger over time, that will change, however."

He pegged the turning point as 10% of the personal computer market, a fraction that he said Apple could obtain within the next five years, assuming current growth trends. "So the next version of Windows may be a risk to Apple, but Windows 7 is not going to have an impact."

Microsoft is set to publicly launch Windows 7 in retail -- both as boxed copies of the operating system as well as on new PCs -- in 10 days.

Marshall also predicted a return by Apple to historical growth during the last calendar quarter of 2009, another indication that the company weathered the recession better than most computer makers. His estimate for Mac sales in the October-December timeframe of just over 3 million machines would mean a year-to-year sales increase of more than 20%.

"Apple is getting back to normalized historical growth," Marshall said about his estimate. "The price cuts are having an impact, especially on the $1,199 MacBook Pro."

Further price cuts, perhaps in a revitalized MacBook line, would also help drive sales in the last months of 2009, Marshall agreed.

Apple will announce sales figures for the calendar quarter that ended Sept. 30 next Monday during a conference call with reporters and analysts.

Marshall expects that Apple will then claim it sold approximately 2.8 million Macs in the July-September quarter, which would represent a 7% increase over the same period last year.

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