A Look Into the Future: Apple > Microsoft

I am going to begin by saying I use Microsoft Windows. In fact, I use it as my main operating system on my main computer, and I enjoy it. I have been running it for as long as I can remember, and aside from some issues that were Dell’s fault a few years back, the OS has never failed on me. There are occasional (once a year or so) issues: most recently, my Windows XP user profile became corrupted. My files were all fine, but logging in took five to eight minutes, literally, which was completely unbearable. I followed the tedious, yet working fix on the Microsoft Knowledge Base, and it was soon resolved. I haven’t had a problem since then, which was like six months ago.

Despite my successes with Microsoft Windows, I am well aware that most users are not in my shoes. Not taking proper precautions (like, for example, opening an unknown e-mail attachment or not running anti-virus software) can yield extremely bad results, like your entire computer not booting anymore. It just seems that, generally speaking, Windows is a high maintenance operating system, when it definitely shouldn’t be. Undoubtedly, Windows’s largest user base is home users, who are, on average, not technically proficient enough to assess the authenticity of phished e-mails, etc. That being said, the focus of the operating system should be ease-of-use, above all else, but that is really where it falls short. If you put a person who has never touched a computer in their life in front of a Windows computer with no direction whatsoever, it is extremely likely they will have no idea what to do or how to operate anything, especially transferring pictures from a camera or other day-to-day tasks that are made difficult due to the shortcoming of the Windows operating system.

Simply put, Windows is a flawed operating system compared to its current peers of today. It has not evolved in any large way since Windows 95. I use it because I have no problems with it given my ability to navigate the system, and also because I have to. Being a fan of computer games, I am virtually locked in to Windows. Mac gets games years after they are released on Windows, and Linux only gets certain games from certain developers (namely Unreal Tournament, Quake, etc.).

Now is when I introduce the “other side”. Mac is really Windows’s complement. It is ease-of-use and UI perfection translated into an operating system. The underlying interface paradigms of the operating system make more sense to the average person. More importantly, some things “just work”. Someone once described it to me by saying Macs are smarter than PCs, which I think is true. Plugging in a digital camera launches iPhoto, which, with one click of the mouse, will transfer all the photos to your hard drive. The same functionality could be configured on a Windows PC, but it requires user intervention. And that is the whole point… it shouldn’t have to. Computers aren’t meant to make things difficult, and it just seems like Windows introduces too many hurdles that the average user needs to overcome.

This was just supposed to be a brief comparison, and it is getting a little too verbose for my liking, so I’m just going to dive right into the point of this article.

Apple, now using Intel processors, is getting huge press with the ability to run Windows and Linux on their hardware, previously a difficult proposition. The fact that they use similar hardware to Windows, and the rumors that their next OS update (10.5 Leopard) will be able to run Windows apps, will bridge the gap between platforms. When both Windows and Mac can run the same applications, then what would everyone choose? Whatever interface is better. Apple needs to deal with the fact that they are the only ones making computers that can run Mac (in other words, let OSX install on any x86 platform). What is all comes down to is that Apple is as innovative as always and moving forward.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is just trying to keep up. Beating Apple to the punch, they had a head start, which made them lazy. But much like in the tortoise and the hare tale, you should never take a rest, even when your winning the race. In Microsoft’s case, they can’t stop innovating just because they’re making a lot of money today. Who knows what tomorrow brings? And with Apple growing every day, the tortoise is getting closer and closer to the finish line.

The bottom line is this. Microsoft has a great product, but its once-awesome features are quickly beginning to show their age, and it has usability issues that need to be resolved (see Spyware article for one of the biggest issues Microsoft needs to combat). All the while, Apple develops newer features that keep everything feeling fresh. I use both Windows and Mac on a daily basis, and wouldn’t give up either. The day will come, though, when Windows is no longer my main operating system, and by the looks of things, that is going to be a lot sooner than I had imagined.

I am going to close with links to two articles.

John Gruber, on his blog site, rebuts the media’s recent attacks on the security of Mac OS X.

Gartner, over at theorizes about another possible delay in the Windows Vista operating system.

The themes of these two articles reverberates what I am saying. Microsoft Windows is lagging behind while Apple Mac OS X is keeping its status as fresh and secure while growing quickly.