AppleInsider has published an in depth look at the competitive origins of Windows 7 and Mac OS X and why the products aren’t really direct competitors.
The operating system most users end up with will depend upon what hardware they choose to buy, not the specific feature details of the software that system happens to run. History reveals that the hardware decision isn’t going to be based primarily upon features.
The following presents a historical overview of the competition between Apple and Microsoft in the operating system market leading up to this year’s face off between Windows 7 and Snow Leopard. While modern Macs can now also run Windows, Apple is the only PC maker to refrain from actually licensing it from Microsoft as an OEM; in contrast, Apple’s Mac OS X only legally runs on the company’s own premium PCs. That has enabled Mac OS X to differentiate Apple’s hardware from other PC vendors using easy to demonstrate software features and tighter hardware integration, winning back some of the ground Apple lost during the decade of the 90s.