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Leopard will open the Mac OS X floodgates (and embarrass Microsoft)

Microsoft is in trouble. And with the release of Leopard, it looks like it will only get worse for the software giant.

Mac OS X Leopard
Leopard--the future of the OS market. CNET Networks

As many of you are aware, I think Windows Vista is a blunder. And with its annoying UAC system and horrifically slow operation, it won't take long before the majority of home users agree with me. If the recent figures showing Mac OS X is already gaining market share is any indication of the future, look for Leopard to outsell Vista by a staggering margin.

Simply put, Mac OS X Leopard is one of the most significant operating system achievements we have witnessed in years. Not only does it add functionality that Microsoft could only have dreamed of, it does so in a snappy environment that doesn't annoy you with pop-ups asking for permission or all of those security threats we have come to know (and hate) in Windows.

But my belief that Vista will soon bow to Leopard goes far beyond the operating system itself. In fact, the major reason Vista will succumb to Mac OS X has little to do with Apple, but quite a bit to do with Microsoft's current focus. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, one thing is abundantly clear: Microsoft fears Google and is doing everything it can to become the Google slayer instead of competing in its core business--software.

The company is on a slippery slope, and to be quite honest, I don't think it can get off too easily.

Reason 1: The Vista debacle
Microsoft Vista is nothing more than a public beta of an operating system that should have been held back until the major issues with the operating system were addressed. Instead, Microsoft--obviously feeling pressure from Leopard--decided to release a faulty operating system. Unfortunately for the company, everyone realized just how bad it was and its own major allies (computer manufacturers) all asked that XP continue to be an option for consumers, because, as Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci explained in an interview, "The entire industry is disappointed by Windows Vista. I really don't think that someone has bought a new PC specifically for Vista."

Microsoft Vista
Vista the blunder Microsoft

For the first time, PC manufacturers are staging a miniature revolt and Microsoft has seemed nonchalant about the entire ordeal. Of course, the reason is quite simple: it has too much capital invested in Vista, and an outright cancellation or public apology would be too much for Microsoft to swallow. So, instead of doing the right thing, we're left with a shoddy operating system.

But the story doesn't end there. Microsoft has started a stealth PR game that slowly gets us thinking about the follow-up to Vista--Windows 7. First, the company stated that it would not release features from the OS, but subsequent to the release of Vista, details emerged about a pervasive typing line and parallel computing. Even better, the company demonstrated a stripped-down variation of the new Windows 7 kernel (called MinWin) a few weeks ago. Is this all an accident? Not a chance. The company is doing everything it can to take the attention off Vista and its blunders and has already begun the marketing campaign on the next OS. Who would have thought it would have begun so soon?

To make matters worse, Microsoft is in the process of releasing Service Pack 3 for XP which, for all intents and purposes, adds the nice features from Vista to XP. Upon doing so, why would anyone need to upgrade to Vista? If you have an operating system that works and it now includes the good elements of Vista, what's the impetus to buy the Vista upgrade?

Contrast all this to Leopard--a robust, usable, and immensely appealing operating system that is only available on the products created by a company that has created a worldwide fervor for everything it makes. I think it becomes blatantly clear that Apple is in the driver's seat right now.

Reason 2: Google envy
Microsoft is losing its focus. Instead of relying on its core business to take the day, it has tried to move into the advertising and online space to take on Google. And if we've learned nothing else over the past five years, we've learned that Google has a superior business model and corporate culture that does not succumb to poor business deals or strange decisions by management. Even better, the company has huge sums of capital in its coffers and has done its part in making the right business decisions when it was appropriate.

But Microsoft--a company notoriously known for its obsession in squashing opponents--has not made the sound decisions Google has made.

Consider this: Google buys the rights to advertise on MySpace, and Microsoft spends far too much cash on the overvalued Facebook to keep up. Google buys DoubleClick to solidify its stance as the leading advertiser on the Internet and Microsoft decides to buy a no-name advertising firm for a ridiculous amount of money just to keep up.

Now, these moves are understandable if the company wants to blaze its own path and solidify itself as a major player in the online business, but most of them seem like knee-jerk reactions to me.

There's nothing wrong with Microsoft getting in on the online game, but it needs to realize that software (and software alone) was the reason it became such a huge company. And while the industry is taking everything online, Microsoft needs to focus its attention on what it does best and stop spending huge sums of cash on deals that don't make any sense.

Reason 3: It's beyond Microsoft's control
Unfortunately for Microsoft, the cards have been dealt and the future of the operating system market is beyond its control. Vista--its workhorse for the next three to five years--is the only thing standing between Microsoft's command of the operating system market and Apple. But unfortunately for Microsoft, Leopard is a superior product on a "cool" computer.

With the release of the iPhone and its subsequent success, Apple has enjoyed record-setting profits, a significant increase in Mac market share, and continued success in the PMP market. Simply put, Apple is easily the most favored company in the industry. And while Leopard is more of an evolutionary jump than a revolutionary jump, it's enough of a change to justify its purchase.

Leopard was released at the right time. With Apple dominating headlines and becoming a company in vogue, it wouldn't surprise me to see Mac sales jump far beyond expectations in the coming months. And once that happens, Leopard will start its rise and take a significant share away from Microsoft.

Believe what you will, but with sluggish sales and an outright condemnation on the part of retailers worldwide, Microsoft is in trouble.

And with the release of Leopard, Apple is poised to make headway in the operating system market--not entirely of its own doing, but partly due to the current unraveling being witnessed in Redmond.