Why you should take a look at Mac OS X.1

Summary:Mac operating systems have always been better than Windows--yet never better enough to cause Windows users to switch. David Coursey looks at why no matter how hard Apple seems to run, it can't get away from Microsoft.

COMMENTARY--This weekend, Apple released the first major revision to System X, the Unix-based Macintosh operating system of the future. The new version, called 10.1 (or should I write X.1?), cleans up some of the loose ends from the first release, especially by improving performance.

OS X is the nicest operating system I've ever seen. It works like an OS should work, but is very different from all previous Mac operating systems. Mostly, this is a good thing for average users, though people used to troubleshooting Mac problems must begin their education pretty much from scratch.

Sadly, this is another case where Apple lacks escape velocity vis-à-vis Microsoft Windows. Here’s what I mean.

Mac operating systems have always been better than Windows--yet never better enough to cause Windows users to switch and, increasingly, not even able to get the attention of first-time computer buyers. Microsoft always manages to stay just a few footsteps behind Apple, nipping at the heels of whatever OS is running on the Mac at the time. No matter how hard Apple seems to run, it can't get away from Microsoft.

Still, X.1 deserves more attention from the Windows community that it will get. Having little to lose, Apple built its new OS atop Unix. If you dig under the covers, you will find a fairly standard Unix behind that beautiful Aqua user interface.

This will win Apple new friends and return customers in the Unix community. Many of these people have a Unix desktop and a second "productivity" machine for running applications, generally Windows apps.

With OS X, Apple hopes to give them both a Unix machine and an apps machine, all in one box. This plays especially well in the education market, traditionally an Apple stronghold, but one that is in a rebuilding phase after recent troubles.

If the Linux community really wants to hurt Microsoft--a frequent theme in some of the e-mail I receive from readers--wouldn't buying a Mac be a good way to do this without having to deal with some of the challenges of Linux? Just a thought.

Despite some potential wins in the Unix and schools markets, Apple still needs help getting OS X in front of would-be customers. Many people who could happily buy an OS X-equipped Mac will never give the possibility a thought. I wish more of them would.

The average "information worker" who lives in Microsoft Office and on the Internet would find that a Mac desktop or laptop easily meets their needs. The downside is learning two operating environments (not a steep slope) or getting their company to support a Mac (which may prove impossible).

Home users, who don't have corporate IS departments to contend with, will find Macs easier to network than Windows XP (which itself makes networking somewhat straightforward), as well as excellent compatibility between the versions of Microsoft Office at the workplace and Office for the Mac at home.

Windows Office users really should take a look at Mac Office, just to see what a completely different take on office productivity apps looks like. As soon as I have time to play with a final release version of Mac Office for OS X (due soon), I will report back.

Also, in a few weeks I hope to complete a comparison of some of the media features of the two operating systems--things like MP3 support and the ability to edit home movies--and let you know what I find. Both Microsoft and Apple are promoting this as an important strength of their new OSes, so I am looking forward to doing the testing.

OS X.1 and Windows XP are significantly different operating systems. Each is the best OS their corporate parents have ever released. Both companies are proud of their work, and users should find a lot to be happy about, whichever new OS they choose.

I hope people who care about computing--or help others decide what to buy--will take a look at both operating systems and make the best choices and recommendations.

For most, this will be a Microsoft OS, and I have no problems with that. But the part of me that loves Macintosh knows there are many people who'd really be happier with a Mac, but never get the chance to see one.

If you're a Windows user, would you check out OS X.1? If you're a Mac adherent, do you like the changes? TalkBack to me.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Apps, Hardware, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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