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  • Mac OS X Versus Windows Vista: A Very, Very Informal Comparison

    February 2nd, 2007

    Now it can be told, but there’s no secret about it, really. Since last spring, I’ve been running various iterations of Windows Vista. Now maybe some of you feel I deserve a little pity for lowering myself to use a Microsoft product, but I really have nothing against the company, as much as I might criticize their policies and products from time to time.

    I am, for example, a pretty loyal Word for Macintosh user, although I don’t run the other Mac Office applications quite as often. I’ve written over 30 books and hundreds and hundreds of articles in a number of versions of the application over the past roughly 20 years or so, so I’ve become accustomed to its quirks. Yes, there have been third-party alternatives through the years. They may excel in one way or another, but they don’t have anything to match such significant features as Word’s Track Changes feature, something that editors and publishers require.

    But what about the end result of Microsoft’s five-year, $6 billion development project, Windows Vista? Is it all that it could have been? Well, no, of course, and not just because it was at least a couple of years late. Significant features were shed along the way, and some feel Vista is little more than a redecorated Windows XP, with some added security features to make you at least feel safer.

    I suppose you could make a good argument for that, particularly since the full recipe of Vista’s Aero interface 3D effects requires an extremely powerful graphics processor. If you’re not up to date with the latest and greatest, you suffer from a reduced Vista experience — or maybe you don’t suffer, since some feel Aero in all its glory is just a little too obnoxious. Of course, they said that about Apple’s Aqua interface for Mac OS X, which has been tamed somewhat over the years. Or maybe people just got accustomed to its face, and I presume Windows users will get accustomed to Vista as well.

    But sometimes change for change’s sake isn’t such a good idea. The “classic” menu bar, for example, has been excised from Microsoft’s latest applications, although you can invoke it with the proper clicks and incantations. Did a focus group tell them that we don’t need any menu bar labels anymore? If so, I’d fire the focus group and get some people who have a better sense of reality.

    I’m not going to delve too deeply into the ways that Microsoft mimics Mac OS X Tiger. Was Outlook Express such a bad name that it had to morph into Windows Mail? Everything is Windows this and Windows that, if only because it seems that Microsoft’s developers and/or product people lacked the foresight to come up with anything original.

    Or maybe it was that focus group again. I pity them, if they actually liked these new names. Maybe they never heard of Apple’s Mail application, or Aqua, or Widgets, since Microsoft has given us “Gadgets,” as if we wouldn’t know that both were inspired by a third-party shareware application.

    In any case, Vista appears to run almost as fast as XP if you have the right hardware and gargantuan amounts of memory. Otherwise, it’s going to feel as bloated as its installation size.

    Even then, the latest reports I’m hearing is that application performance, from launching to getting work done, is slower than with XP. This is something I’ve noticed as well, regardless of the PC hardware I use. Now maybe you need stopwatches to see much of a difference, but I wonder how Microsoft can make the case for greater productivity with their new operating system.

    If tasks take longer, why upgrade, unless your PC comes that way? Or maybe Microsoft just wants you to work less and get the same salary. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea!

    Now I installed the so-called “RTM” version of Vista, the one released to manufacturing, in December, shortly after the CD masters went to the pressing plants. On the day of Vista’s consumer launch, Tuesday, I noticed that the operating system had to be activated once again. As I write this, it spent an agonizing few minutes installing four upgrades before it restarted. As is usual for Microsoft, the nature of the upgrades and why they are needed isn’t always very clear. You just have to trust that they are necessary, or do some online searching for the specifics.

    No doubt, Vista had to be patched to fix bugs that were uncovered in the two months or so since it reached release status. So even release is, in Microsoft’s parlance, prerelease. At least, with Apple, they wait a few weeks before inflicting new updates upon us, and they are usually labeled with some degree of clarity, so you can decide whether you want or need them.

    All in all, I do find Vista far more attractive to work in than XP, despite the bloat. Stability appears to be quite good as well, even though most of the applications I’ve run aren’t actually certified for Vista. The real issue is whether it is any more immune from security threats, and I understand the malware writers are working overtime trying to create the early batches of full-blown Vista infections.

    As to Apple, I really don’t think they have much to worry about over the arrival of Vista. There have already been published reports that the lines awaiting the initial launch of Vista upgrade kits tended to be almost non-existent. I just wonder how many times Microsoft thinks it can fool its customers with its alleged “innovation” before they begin to take notice?

    Probably not this time. Now when is Apple going to release Leopard again?

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