"Tarnish" -- it's one of those words that IT journalists like to use when a particular industry luminary gets soiled by bad news or a product release blunder.
Most recently, the term has been applied to Microsoft -- as in, "can Apple tarnish Windows 7" by seizing on the bad taste left over from Windows Vista. Some pundits are arguing that yes they can -- that Apple might seize up to 30 percent of the market as a result of all of the bad press surrounding Vista's failure and now the rocky Windows 7 upgrade path faced by XP users.
[ Get the full scoop on the new Mac OS X Snow Leopard in InfoWorld's preview. | Compare Windows 7 and Mac OS X head to head in our slideshow. | See if Windows 7 atones for Vista's sins in the Test Center's Windows 7 RTM review. ]
With all due respect to the industry quacks (such as the guy who once predicted that Windows CE-based terminal devices would rule the world) who postulate such nonsense, it just ain't gonna happen. Microsoft's Windows distribution franchise is a well-oiled machine, honed to near perfection during years of industry dominance. Windows Vista was an aberration -- a bit of gunk in the gears that slowed the machine down for a bit but that now has been cleared away with Windows 7.
By all accounts (including my own), Windows 7 is what Vista should have been: a solid, stable successor to Windows XP that improves on its predecessor and matches up well with the current state of the PC hardware ecosystem. That Windows 7 was released to beta late in its development cycle, with much of the core plumbing work already fully baked, was a good thing. It has allowed system manufacturers to fully vet the new OS and to ensure that their customers have a positive initial experience with the myriad Windows 7 solutions that will be coming down the pike in the third and fourth quarters of this year.
And make no mistake: The solutions are coming, in all shapes, sizes, and price points. In fact, the Windows 7 launch may turn out to be the biggest synchronized hardware/software platform refresh push in the history of computing. Microsoft will be pulling out all the stops with this one, and the resulting tidal wave of Windows 7 products and services will drown out the posturing and tired rhetoric of the Apple camp.
Of course, this won't stop them from trying. I can easily see Apple seeking to tarnish (there's that word again) Windows 7 by pointing out its Vista heritage -- sort of a "lift the hood and see the Vista underpinnings" type of a play. Maybe Apple will roll a real, physical car into the ad and pop the hood to expose the ugly truth hidden behind its shiny new paint job and bolt-on fins (yes, I said "fins" -- they'll go retro with this one).
Apple will throw the proverbial kitchen sink at Windows 7, but it won't work. This isn't Vista R2 anymore. Microsoft has learned its lesson, put the right people (yes, I admit this now) in the right places, and generally executed masterfully. Barring an act of nature -- for example, a tornado tearing through the Redmond campus and wiping out the entire marketing staff -- Windows 7 will be a major hit, one that reinforces Microsoft's place as the dominant player on the desktop.
My advice to Mac enthusiasts: Enjoy your day in the sun while you can. Because the eclipse is coming ... and it's shaped like a giant Windows logo.