In recent weeks, both Microsoft and Apple pushed their new operating systems to enforce their own visions for the future of computing. The new Microsoft operating system, which introduces changes as big as the change from Windows 3.x to 95, has a completely new interface, support for new processors, vastly improved touch functions, and many more changes. Windows 8 seems to come with a lot of advantages, but does it stand a chance against the might of the Lion?
On the hardware side, both Microsoft and Apple are trying to win over average consumers, so their system requirements for each operating system are reasonably low, so Lion needs at least a Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM and Windows 8 requires 1 GHz x86-64 processor and 2 GB of RAM for 64-bit system. For now, OS X sticks to 64-bit Intel machines, but Microsoft has chosen to design Windows 8 so that it can run on everything. The infamous added ARM support further completes the long list of Windows 8 compatible devices. Microsoft’s approach is philosophically different and does not distinguish between desktops and mobile devices, while Apple seems to view them as distinct entities. At the moment it is impossible to say which idea is better. Perhaps both are useful in their own way, targeting different types of customers. However, a platform is likely to become the biggest muscle on the market. While I lean towards the Apple philosophy, I really like the radical decisions Microsoft made in trying to overcome Apple’s growing presence. It’s all or nothing, and without radical changes, Windows had no chance of survival.
I’m largely a sports center – I work on a MacBook Pro, own a Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile, use Apple’s iPad, play on PS3 and Xbox 360, code in Ubunto, and even run a Windows 8 developer preview for fun. For the sake of the competition and for the sake of a cool world that stays cool, I hope all of these variations are still alive. I think either operating system has a good chance of convincing the ever-growing group of tech-conscious customers to choose it, and here you can find a short comparison that will only convince you in the end to install both operating systems and decide for itself.
I immediately loved the Windows 8 interface. I love Metro’s beautiful user interface. The Start menu displays a tiled screen similar to Windows Phone, and the Kinect interfaces and applications can run in full screen. The traditional desktop is also available, but Windows Explorer has an Office-like user interface that I don’t find particularly useful. Windows 8 has a massive touch orientation and is equipped with an on-screen keyboard and gesture recognition. Windows 8 offers much better handwriting recognition than its predecessor. But for it to work, you need to write reasonably well; It is something I would never do, the same as convincing myself to write on the screen with a stylus, even on a tablet.
While Lion bridges the gap between iOS and a traditional desktop operating system, it is still a desktop system. It seems that Apple has put a thin curtain between everything portable and the rest of the jungle, and beyond this curtain lives the mighty lion. Apple doesn’t even want to make touchscreen PCs and its general stance against vertical touchscreens and previous comments made by the company don’t show any signs of a future move in this area. I’ve used a touchscreen PC myself, it’s extremely inconvenient, and I appreciate Apple’s position much more. There is nothing that can convince me to put down my nice, smooth, functional trackpad and start tapping a vertical screen.
Scroll bars have been omitted and the iOS-style app launcher has been added. I use this quite often, but I have heard from people who consider it completely useless. An improved iCal gets very ugly mostly from unsightly looking skin, but is otherwise a great product. To the point where you start tapping the trackpad, Lion looks and feels very similar to SnowLeopard. It works great with the trackpad and I can’t stress enough how much I love my MacBook’s trackpad. You can easily open mission control, swipe between full-screen apps, zoom, rotate, and take full control of your screen. In a strange move, the trackpad scrolling is reversed and is more iOS-like, that is, in the opposite direction from Snow Leopard. You can reverse that if you want to; It made me happier when I did!
A cloudy world full of applications
It’s a bit late, but Windows will finally have an App Store! It’s still cooking, but both traditional and Metro-style apps will be available in the store. Metro applications are very small things and will take full advantage of the new capabilities of the touch interface; It really is up to the developers to show their magic. Windows 8 is also a murky operating system. If you buy an app, you can use it on all your PCs, you can sync your preferences and settings, and SkyDrive will allow the user to remotely access a PC and allow the apps to share data.
Apple introduced its App Store in Snow Leopard. Makes for a very pleasant user experience when using LaunchPad, which offers easy installation, uninstallation, and updates similar to iOS. Lion is even more cloudy than Windows 8. iCloud is now available to developers and will give users 5GB of free storage to sync iTunes purchases, contacts, calendars, emails, photos, and documents between their OS X and iOS devices.
Security and stability
It seems that antivirus producers need to make major changes to the business. Windows 8 comes with a built-in antivirus and Internet Explorer uses a database of known corrupt files to better protect the user in a world full of malware. Metro applications are protected by security and cannot access areas of the system that they should not. You can easily reset your system to factory settings without a time consuming and annoying complete installation. Microsoft has also made it much easier for you to save your information by introducing a new option to restore system files without damaging the rest of the system. In addition, Windows 8 will have file history feature that backs up and can save user profile folders to any external storage device.
Overall, Apple’s tight integration of hardware and software and its incredibly robust ecosystem, which is by no means open, make Apple’s products far more stable than alternatives. It doesn’t mean Lion is bug-free – I think we all remember the nasty bugs that initially appeared with Lion but were later fixed. Time Machine backups along with automatic saving and file versioning make disaster recovery easy. Also for now, it appears that OS X has remained a virus-free environment. Maybe this will change as the Mac makes more headlines. Being the center of attention means being in the center of attention of many genius hackers.
An unpredictable future
In Windows, the lines between the mobile device and the desktop will blur. I admire the ambition behind the sweeping changes Microsoft has made to Windows 8, although I like the distinction Apple makes. Windows 8 is still evolving, but it has made enough changes to get some of us excited. Although I think the Metro user interface is overrated, I find it very nice and comfortable to use. Apple seems to have the advantage of having focused on mobile devices for longer with a proven track record and an army of great and loyal developers. Apple seems to have won the hearts and minds of consumers and it would be too difficult to beat them, at least for now.