Snow Leopard sales roar out the gate

Sales of Snow Leopard during its first two weeks on the shelves far exceeded those of the last two Apple operating systems

By , Computerworld |  Operating Systems, Mac OS X, Snow Leopard

Sales of Snow Leopard during its first two weeks on the shelves far exceeded those of the last two Apple operating systems -- Leopard and Tiger -- a retail research analyst said today.

According to the sales data that the NPD Group collects from U.S. retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, sold twice as many copies in the first two weeks as Leopard, its immediate predecessor, did in 2007 -- and almost four times higher than Tiger, which debuted in 2005.

"Absolutely, I was surprised -- especially compared to how much push Leopard had," said Stephen Baker, the NPD analyst who covers retail software sales. "But when you think about Snow Leopard's pricing, it really shouldn't surprise anyone."

Apple set Snow Leopard's price at $29 for a single license, $49 for a five-license family pack, $100 less than the corresponding Leopard packages, claiming in June that "we want all Leopard users to upgrade to Snow Leopard, so we're pricing it at $29."

Most analysts read different tea leaves, and said that Apple recognized it couldn't charge its usual for what had been billed as a stability and performance upgrade with relatively few visible new features. "I think Apple's pricing strategy is something other companies should follow," Baker said. He didn't name names, but was clearly referring to Microsoft , which is set to ship Windows 7 next month.

"Apple clearly demonstrated that aggressive pricing policies in this economic environment generate an outstanding consumer response," said Baker.

Some retailers have discounted Snow Leopard. Amazon.com, for example, is currently selling the single-license OS for $25, and the family pack for $40.

Microsoft has set the lowest retail list price of a single-license Windows 7 upgrade at $120, and the price of a three-license family pack at $150.

For a limited period, Microsoft discounted an upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium to $49.99, but the company has not announced plans to rerun that program either before or at the time the new OS ships in late October.

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