Battle of the Steves

While Steve Jobs' Apple is riding high on the iPhone 3G buzz, Steve Ballmer's Microsoft is pushing Hyper-V

Here's an irony: With XP's expiration date now 10 days past, you'd think Microsoft could take a deep breath, wipe the sweat off its brow, and enjoy some relative peace and quiet. Wrong. The software giant launched its Vista Compatibility Center this week -- and promptly fell on its face when the site was down for a whole day.

Apple, meanwhile, is about to stock the shelves with the iPhone 3G, and while it won't spark the excitement of the original, it's still precipitating plenty of buzz and, no doubt, lines at the stores.

But on another front, when VMware gave CEO and co-founder Diane Greene the boot this week, it was an implicit affirmation that Microsoft (and other players) are undermining the young company's grip on the market.

Moreover, it's a good time to remember that Microsoft, for all its shortcomings, still beats the pants off Apple in the market for operating systems. Don't go ballistic on me, please. I'm not implying that Vista is better than Leopard -- merely that it is ubiquitous, while Apple's OS is still a niche product.

Slow and slower drives us crazy

Even if the Vista Compatibility Center hadn't suffered an embarrassing crash, it would still be, well, embarrassing. After 18 months of life, you'd think an operating system's shakedown period would be long over. Hell, Apple launches a new rev of OS X every 18 months or so.

To be fair, Vista and the technology industry are finally closer to being on the same page. Back in May, Microsoft said "there are 240 per cent more devices and components supported on Windows Vista today than at launch and there are more than 2,700 Windows Vista logo applications available today." There was more to it, but you get the idea.

Yeah, that's good thing, but again, what took so long? Given that Microsoft has something like a 90 per cent market share, and yes, it's a government-certified monopoly, why not use that power before a new OS launches, instead of waiting and causing innumerable user headaches?

It's true that OS X has gained share. Last month, it accounted for 7.94 per cent of the operating systems powering computers that accessed the 40,000 Web sites monitored by Net Applications for its clients. A year ago, Mac OS X's usage share stood at 6.03 percent.

A significant gain? Sure. But let's put that in perspective courtesy of "Baboo," of Sao Paulo, who posted this telling comment on Fortune's Web site after Axel Springer AG, one of Europe's largest newspaper publishers, announced it was moving 10,000 users from Windows PCs to Macs:

"Microsoft sold 150 million Vista licenses in 15 months = 10 million per month = 333k per day = 13,880 per hour. 10,000 new Macs in 5 years = 10,000 new Vistas in 43 minutes If they're switching 1 MILLION Macs = 3 days of Windows Vista If they're switching 10 MILLION Macs = 30 days of Windows Vista."

Nothing like a little math for a reality check.

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