Mac or Windows: Does It Even Matter Any More?

I have been in several discussion with people who claim that all operating systems are rubbish these days, whether Windows, Mac, or Linux. In this day and age of cross-platform computing and the Internet, does it really matter what OS you are running?

I’m no fan of Windows, but I remember the early days before Windows 98 where everything needed a driver and hardware conflicts popped up every day. Nowadays XP and Vista are becoming more like modern Mac operating systems in their ability to cope with hardware using drivers built into the operating system.

Mac users care about what Apple does with it’s OS. I use a Mac for its OS. Macs are just standard hardware wrapped in shiny Apple designs; it is the Mac OS that makes the difference. I use a Mac mainly for its OS; the lovely design of the hardware is a bonus.

Linux is growing slowly, and Linux and OS X share a common Unix grounding; anyone who has used both will see the similarities. Linux has gone from being a very small minority command-line based nerdy OS and is slowly gaining ground with more of graphical user interface base. Commercial companies are tapping into the success of Ubuntu Linux and making it more successful.

But at the end of the day, an OS is just a user interface to the software you want to run. Sure, intuitive, fun, stable, and easy to use are key reasons behind an OS, but it is just a platform to let you do what you want to do on your computer.

Most Mac users tell you they like the stability and feel OS X has over Windows, but the software they end up using is generally available on both platforms; even Linux is fast becoming a third option for software developers.

Mac users – myself included – love Macs and OS X because the operating system is so easy to use, beautiful to look at, and super stable. And because of Apple’s “it just works” philosophy – and generally it does. This is the reason a lot of us abandoned the Microsoft operating system.

With the advances in all three platforms, what else could a company bring to an OS that hasn’t already been done? It is a simple navigational piece of software that allows you to do other things nicely without having to type out code. When Leopard and Vista came out, they were slammed for their “fancy effects”, but these are the same things that drive them forward.

I am happy with the current offerings – at least on the Mac front. OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard are the best experiences you can get on a Mac, and they are pretty impressive. To a lesser extent, XP and Vista are vast improvements over previous incarnations of Windows. And Ubuntu 7 is miles ahead of previous incarnations of Linux.

Google is rumoured to be developing its own operating system, but at the end of the day, what new could they bring to the scene? It is, after all, the menu/point-and-click system that is the basis of all operating systems, unless you are still using a command-line system.

For me, however much Windows progresses, I will stay firmly in the Mac camp. As fast as Windows improves, Apple goes one better.

With Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – and to a lesser extent Ubuntu 8 “Hardy Heron” and Ubuntu 9 “Jaunty Jackalope” – are due in the next 12 months. It will be interesting to see the new features they promise and how they differ from current operating system offerings.

We are progressing, but no flying cars I’m afraid.

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