Snow Leopard Sales Seen Doubling Leopard

snowleopardboxJust two weeks after being released, Snow Leopard (s aapl) is already setting records. According to NPD, sales are more than twice that of plain-old Leopard in its first two weeks, and nearly four times that of Tiger.

“Even though some considered Snow Leopard to be less feature-focused than the releases of Leopard or Tiger, the ease of upgrading to Snow Leopard and the affordable pricing made it a win-win for Apple computer owners — thus helping to push sales to record numbers” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

While it’s true Apple is not counting off 300 “new features,” as was done with Leopard, and it’s mostly true that Snow Leopard is an easy upgrade, at least after 10.6.1, the story here is really about price. At $29, Snow Leopard costs less than a quarter of the $129 price of Leopard or Tiger.

NPD further reports that the sales momentum has declined from the first week to the second by only around 25 percent, contrasting sharply with a decline of 60 percent for both Leopard and Tiger. NPD’s Stephen Baker suggests that Apple’s “aggressive pricing policies in this economic environment generate an outstanding consumer response,” but there is also money in volume. Macrumors previously reported on a research note from Piper Jaffray research analyst Gene Munster predicting as many as 5 million copies sold during the current quarter. That’s good news for the bottom line, but there may be another benefit for Apple in the low price of Snow Leopard.

While there are few new features in the user interface, Snow Leopard does make use of new technologies, like Grand Central. By encouraging users to upgrade through a lower price, the adoption of those technologies will occur sooner rather than later. An upgrade wave also makes it easier to discontinue supporting legacy technology associated with the PPC architecture, like Rosetta, now an optional install with Snow Leopard. Ultimately, this means the low price of Snow Leopard now will reap support savings for Apple in the future.

At $29, Snow Leopard appears to be a good deal for both consumers and the company. If there is a downside, it could come in trying to charge $129 for the next iteration of OS X. Good luck with that, Apple.