Microsoft is big, really big, and because it is so big it has lots of ‘friends’, some of which it calls ‘Channel Partners’. And many of those Channel Partner ‘friends’ seem pretty impressed…by Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard (which ships Friday, folks).

Vista wasn’t so much a view as a disaster, with consumer and business users preferring to stay safe with Windows XP. And while Windows 7 promises more, there’s work ahead for Redmond, observed on of the company’s friends..

"Performance in Windows Vista was a disaster, but in spite of that, Microsoft had 64-bit support and multicore processor support," said Ron Herardian, president of Global System Services. "With Snow Leopard, Apple intends to far exceed the performance of Windows 7 on 64-bit and multicore hardware, and that’s a major strategic advantage."

Gary Dailey, president of Daystar Technology, an Atlanta-based solution provider that sells PCs and Macs, says the performance boost Snow Leopard offers won’t go unnoticed by Microsoft or its partners. "There’s just so much under the covers with Snow Leopard. Apple realizes it has a very mature OS but is still choosing to enhance it, while Microsoft is still trying to get past the Vista experience," he told Channel Web.

The Channel Web report also has the usual statements saying Apple has raised the bar on competition, noting one of Microsoft’s friends who said, “Competition is exactly what Microsoft needs and responds to best.”

Is it really? Let’s take a look at the Zune, which grabbed 2 per cent of the US MP3 player market in June (NPD claims) as compared to Apple’s, erm, Seventy-three per cent (73%).

Microsoft’s anti-Apple MP3 player plans have been through myriad forms. Recall, if you will, the company’s ‘Plays for Sure’ branding (which didn’t) and its host of other attempts to grab a larger slice of the music player crown. Well, now Redmond is attempting to lure iPhone developers to the Zune HD by the simple expedient of paying them cold hard cash…

“One developer of a popular iPhone application for reading Twitter messages says Microsoft recently approached him about re-creating the software to run on Zune, with Microsoft footing the bill for development costs,” reports BusinessWeek. (BTW, the dev declined).

It’s no longer about the device, but the service, Microsoft now claims, according to the report. "The business is entertainment," says Brian Seitz, group marketing manager with Microsoft Zune. "The mobile device or the MP3 player is just one screen that can use the service. To erase the iPod is not what the vision was. The business is the service."

Interesting Microsoft is attempting to make a business out of a service providing media, music and other downloads at a time the music and media industries are wondering just how to create a viable business plan for themselves, but why digress?

Anyway – the new Zune HD is coming and the company’s pinning its hopes on the device. Which hasn’t particularly impressed Needham & Co analyst, Charlie Wolf (one of the better analysts, BTW, who presciently predicted the extent of the iPod-driven switch to Mac once Apple shipped Boot Camp).

His advice to Microsoft? "If I were Microsoft, I’d just drop it.”

Sure, Microsoft is considering opening its Zune marketplace doors to users of other devices, and sure it hopes to boost its place in the mobile devices market with Windows Mobile and Windows 7, but as both reports show, the company really is chasing the tail of its competition.

By the way, if you are one of the many Windows users planning the switch to Mac, you may find Parallels Desktop Switch to Mac Edition a really helpful thing.

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