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  • The Snow Leopard Versus Windows 7 Report: Where’s the Trust?

    August 27th, 2009

    As you may have noticed, Apple has lifted the confidentiality agreements on members of the press who got a somewhat early look at Snow Leopard. So the reviews are now pouring forth and, for the most part, the response is excellent, very much what you’d expect from a release that was actually never represented as a major upgrade.

    What might come as a surprise to some, particularly if you’re new to the Mac, is that Apple basically operates on the honor system when it comes to installing a Mac OS X upgrade. You see, there is no horrendously lengthy serial number to enter, and there is no network or online activation procedure that awaits you. There’s no network check either, to determine whether or not two Macs are running a copy with the same license number, since there is no license number.

    Yes, a fresh install may end with a brief registration panel, but you send only your basic contact info to Apple; they aren’t going to use it as a gauge to determine just how many copies you’re actually running on your home or business network.

    The end result is that Apple expects you to be honest and buy the requisite number of user licenses for your Macs. There are family versions and, via Apple’s enterprise sales channels, business licenses. However, they will not send the software police to your door unless they have evidence of some sort of heavy-duty piracy. Apple trusts you do to the right thing, and since they do not overcharge for their software, most Mac users do just that.

    As to the Snow Leopard DVD that ships with the $29 package, it’s a full installer. You don’t have to have Leopard present, and you can restart and erase your hard drive if you prefer a clean installation rather than the standard “in place” upgrade. Even more surprising to some is the fact that you could actually use it to upgrade an Intel-based Mac running Tiger.

    Yes, there is a special boxed version for $169 meant for Tiger users, which also includes iLife ’09 and iWork ’09. In essence, you are paying just $11 extra for the addition of Snow Leopard to the bundle. So it essentially makes sense that there is nothing to stop you from avoiding the box and going straight to 10.6. Besides, if you are already running the latest versions of iLife and iWork, Apple still ends up earning an extra $18 in this encounter, when you consider the standard price for the two Apple software suites.

    What reviewers are also discovering, to their surprise, is that you usually no longer have to concern yourself with an “Archive and Install” process to assure yourself of a stable upgrade. You can just run the installer and depend on Apple to have figured out how to address most potential installation troubles and be assured everything will proceed without incident. In fact, if you happen to have a power outage during the setup process, you’ll actually be able to pick up where you left off.

    You don’t have to concern yourself about the technical niceties either. Indeed, I am already running Snow Leopard on my Mac Pro and 17-inch MacBook Pro. With a somewhat jaundiced eye, my son was skeptical when I suggested he upgrade his black MacBook to 10.6 as well. But his disbelief was short-lived. While he was at work, with his prior approval, I ran the installation; again it was a simple upgrade. When he returned, I asked him if he noticed much of a difference, and the answer was a surprised “no.” That is a good thing.

    Looking across the aisle, you just know that Microsoft doesn’t trust anyone. They’ve played nasty tricks on users with versions of Windows and other products that are deemed as improperly activated, and they have so many versions and installation alternatives, the mind boggles. Basically it’s far easier to just buy a new PC preloaded with whatever version of Windows you want and be done with it.

    Of course by expecting their customers to be pirates by temperament, Microsoft does a lot to create the appropriate environment. While they will certainly audit businesses for evidence of illegal copies of their software, large numbers of individual users don’t bother with legal copies. Windows piracy is rampant around the world, except for those who have simply given up on that misery and have migrated to Macs or to free alternatives, such as a version of Linux.

    Now you are going to be reading articles from some media pundits over the next few months pretending that Windows 7 is a major upgrade, while Snow Leopard is little more than a glorified service pack. The truth is that the term “service pack” applies equally to Windows 7, which is mostly a cleaned up version of Windows Vista with a new name and some interface refinements (or at least changes) to make you believe that it’s actually something new and different.

    This is not to say that Windows 7 will necessarily be bad. The people I trust in the tech industry tell me that it’s a pretty usable operating system, and that Microsoft did indeed address many of Vista’s failures. That’s a good thing, since so many companies went for Windows — and it doesn’t matter much why.

    However, even a successful Windows 7 launch won’t convince Microsoft to trust their customers. Then again, they also forget that trust is something that has to be earned.

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