Windows X vs. Mac OS 8: What’s going on, and what should you do?

Windows 8 developer Preview has been out for a while now, and I did what every child does the night before christmas: I stayed up all night hoping for a glimpse of Santa’s reindeer. No wait… I was excited, yes, that’s it!

Truth be told, I was never an Apple fan. Expensive, old technology, made for people to swoon over and not to ‘use’ was never my cup of tea. Little did I know what I was missing.

Last Arthur’s day I decided to spill an entire litre of water on my old Dell XPS 16″ BEAUTY. It was time for a new laptop, and for reasons unknown to man or dolphin, I decided i’d get a sexy new Macbook Air 11″. It was my first time with an Apple, and for the first few go’s I was pressing the wrong buttons, and spinning myself into a rage because I paid so much for what I thought was essentially a vTech.

© vTech Advanced Notebook

Time went by, and I learned (or rather unlearned) how to use both the Air, and OSx. Screenshot? CMD-Shift-4. Record Movies? No problems, open QTmovie capture. Working on the go? No worries, have 7 hours battery life while using the internet, with half screen brightness.

It took me approximately one month to fall in love.

Now, before I spark fires beside Microsoft enthusiasts, let me say this is NOT a pro apple discussion I’m about to embark on. I want to list the pro’s and con’s of the available propriety os’s out there. I do not class GNU / linux based systems as mainstream OSes. There are many positive aspects to them, but with so many distros, I feel Linux could be leaps and bounds ahead of MS and Apple, if the resources were pooled together on one or two distros, which conflicts with the vision, mantra, and ethos of the free software foundation.

Now, to get into the heart of the discussion, I plan on looking at Windows 7, Windows 8, OSX Lion, and OSX Mountain Lion. In reasonable detail, but at the same time, I’ll gloss over some pretty big issues. And I’m pretending all of these os’s are running on the same hardware.

Ok, so let’s peruse the current options, Windows 7 and OSX Lion.(ignoring Mountain Lion for now.)

Windows 7 Logo

Windows 7 has much going for it in terms of it being both what Vista should have been, and a HUGE step up from XP. Reliability is good, the interface hasn’t changed much, and it’s by far the most complete windows you’re going to get. Pretty much every program will run on windows. And almost-certainly every game.

What windows 7 doesn’t do is provide a new/nice user interface. Now, for businesses this is a good thing. But gestures, man. Other OS’s have these beautiful things called Gestures. A swipe up, and you get an overview, a swipe left or right gives a new desktop/application. It’s intuitive, but not disruptive. It also doesn’t provide good value for money. €180 for an os is too much. specially when Linux is free, and OSx is like €20. On another note, some of the important functions could be made into handy keyboard shortcuts. how do you take a screenshot in W7? well, you open the snipping tool, click a few buttons and there you go. On OSx, cmd-shift-3, done. saved to desktop.

Lion has some very nice features. As I just outlined, gestures are a big selling point, since they simplify the workflow. Lion comes with a few pre-installed apps. Now, on windows this really grinds my gears, but on Lion, the pre-bundled apps are actually useful. Mail, Safari, Calendar, iTunes all of these work well enough not to need to download an alternative (although I douse Chrome). The absolute selling point for me with Lion, was gestures and a unified update process from the app store, it’s worth mentioning that not all apps are on the appstore, and have separate update methods, but even that some of them are there makes a big difference!

OSX Lion Icon

What Lion doesn’t do is virus removal. Everyone will claim viruses do not exist on mac’s. They’re lying. Every last one of them. What I will tell you, is that a virus can cause little to no harm on a mac, for the reason that all *nix based OS’s (Linux, Unix, OSX) run each program in a ‘sandbox’, essentially limiting the space where a virus can go. But viruses can be passed along to a windows machine easily. In any case… it’s a well-known fact that Lion has a rather limited number of games it can play, and a less limited number of apps it can use. One glaring issue with Lion and all apple OS, is that apple release their own version of Java. So when a major bug is announced, it’s normally a few days before apple sort that out.

So, from these two, there are some big let downs on each side. Windows really needs to improve its interface, and move away from the very industrial and 90’s image of everything being a monumental task to change between programs. Multiple desktops, lads, seriously. Apple have a solid product, but it could do with a few extra things. I’d say they’d cover the market if they let OSx be installed on non-apple hardware. Right now, Apple certainly has the advantage. It’s Operating System is sleek, responsive, easy to use, and generally a more polished experience. If they let it be installed on anything, their entire hardware market collapses, since the hardware is outdated, and doesn’t have much going for it other than build quality.

Now, on to the upcoming releases OSX Mountain Lion (which I’m writing this on) and Windows 8 (which I’ve used, as a developer preview).

Metro interface

Windows 8 is drastically different from any other desktop operating system on the planet. This might herald the downfall of windows, or herald the next age of computing. What windows 8 has introduced is a new “metro” interface. It looks, functions, feels (and smells??) like a phone interface. there are panels, side-bars, notifications bars. Even the icons look like a mobile device. The biggest problem with this is that it’s clearly designed for a touch-screen interface. Do you own a touch screen? Oh, you don’t, neither do I. I’m not sure how it will work with mouse/keyboard. I sure as hell had problems with it on my machine. (remember, i only tested a developer preview, not a finished product) That said, there are technologies out there which would work an absolute charm with this interface. Also, there is now going to be a windows store. Not sure how that will work out, but it’ll be interesting to see a bit of control put on applications.

The bad news: Basically, back to the same point, this is a brand new interface, and while the old familiar desktop is still there, vital menus have changed. I simply do not see this working in a corporate environment. It’s consumer-centric, and plain fancy. Remember that the majority of businesses use Windows, and the majority (read: all) businesses are reluctant to change even the simplest of workflows. This is a BIG spanner in the works for MS, and something I can’t see them overcoming easily.MS claim upgrading to w8 will be only 16 euro. That’s rampant non-sense, since it only counts if you’ve just bought windows 7. Also, We still have multiple OS options (Home, Pro, Ultimate). I really wish these were just bundled together as one release.

OSX Mountain Lion has virtually not changed at all since Lion. A few extra bundled apps have been added (to-do list…) and a new notifications center has been added. This is really cool… but an app called Growl could be bought for €2 on Lion, and did the same job. The really interesting thing with this version of OSX is the native twitter integration. I can tweet from anywhere, even from inside other apps. I can upload to flickr, and soon , I’ll be able to update facebook and publish photos to facebook from anywhere and any app. This is really cool, because its proper integration with a social networking fad (which may or may not be here in 5 years.) Normally apple play everything safe, so this is them showing an interest to current trends.

Mountain Lion Image – Taken from Apple Store

The bad news isn’t too grim. As I said, a few extra apps have been introduced. Unfortunately, the Mail app has last its ability to read Rss feeds. so now ML does not ship with a native rss reader. this isn’t going to affect most people, but I find it a HUGE inconvenience, as now I’m either using a new app, or using feedmyinbox to get feeds sent to my email account. Other than this, and better iCloud integration, virtually nothing has changed. This is a big problem, since windows is shaking things up so much that you’d think apple would have more to offer.

So, with all that’s been said, I think I can safely say that I’ll be sticking to Mountain Lion. it’s got gestures. That has significantly improved my life and my workflow on my laptop. Simply having a gesture to change between applications saves me about 5 seconds every time i want to switch. In a given day, that probably amounts to something over 10 minutes, most likely more.

When windows 8 is fully released, I’m going to stick with windows 7. I do not have the confidence in MS that everything will work on release. I do not have the time to learn a new interface. And I really don’t want to move to w8 and then have my programs not work with it. (I dual-boot windows 8 on my laptop to play games.)

For me, I can’t live without windows, sometimes I need it for work of college. But I use Mountain Lion as my primary OS, I’m really enjoying it, and I reckon it’s improved my workflow heaps!

What OS do you use? and will you be switching or upgrading on release of Windows 8?

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