Leopard introduces lots of new apps and interface features to Mac OS X. Can Vista match up
Let the Battle Begin!
At its recent WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), Apple sought to steal some of Microsoft's thunder by releasing just enough details of its next OS (operating system), Leopard, to make an early comparison to the forthcoming Windows Vista possible. Staying true to form, then.
It seems as though we've been talking about Vista for ages, and although RC1 (Release Candidate One) came out in September, it's likely to be February before most of us see the finished article. However, its features and general look and feel are fairly common knowledge -- and now we have something tangible to compare it to.
Implementation strategies Leopard is an upgrade to Mac OS X, whereas Vista replaces Windows XP almost entirely. Both Apple and Microsoft released OSes in the autumn of 2001 -- Apple's was OS X Puma; Microsoft's was Windows XP. The difference is that XP is still the current version of Windows, while Apple followed up Puma with Jaguar, Panther and Tiger - Apple has a lots-of-incremental-upgrades philosophy, compared with Microsoft's big-upgrade-once-in-a-blue-moon approach. The two major service packs for XP have been relatively feature-light.
Leopard looks to be idiosyncratic and entertaining in a way it's hard to imagine a Microsoft product being. The first major Leopard feature demoed at Steve Job's WWDC keynote was Time Machine, a backup utility that lets you step back to earlier versions of your system and files. This is not a revolutionary idea -- and Microsoft is planning a vaguely similar function for Vista -- but Time Machine's UI (user interface), which involves windows flying through space, is quirky and fun. By contrast, Vista has no strong sense of personality.
We're not saying it's always good for an OS to be playful -- we know people who gnash their teeth even at the way Mac OS X Dock icons bob up and down when it's alerting you to something -- but this contrast has become a defining difference between the two products.
Apple can still get away with security not being a selling point for an OS upgrade; Microsoft has felt the need to introduce lubricating features such as User Account Control -- a function that keeps users aware of dangerous activities on their PCs. But you've got to wonder if Apple will be able to stay smug about security - we've been hearing about security holes in Mac OS X, and hackers seem prepared to target it. Let's face it, they weren't going to leave Apple alone forever.
Which brings us to stability issues. Although XP is considered to be the most stable version of Windows yet, Apple has been in the news recently after a number of its customers found their MacBooks were inexplicably crashing. So upset were these people that they set up www.macbookrandomshutdown.com.
Of course, Leopard's stability is something that can't be properly assessed at this time -- betas, previews, Release Candidates or whatever you want to call them are notoriously flaky, and we'd caution anyone against making judgements about this issue now.
But it will be something that commentators will be watching very closely as the OSes get closer to release.