My Scroll article from November 13th, 2007
When talking about computers, most people recognize Windows and Mac as being two different types of computers. In reality, Windows and MacOSX are not computers, but really operating systems. An operating system is really just a big program which runs on a computer and makes it possible for other programs to run. (This distinction has become more important now that Apple’s new Macs are able to run Windows.)
For the last six years Window users have been using Windows XP, or XP for short. This spring Microsoft released Windows Vista, the long awaited predecessor to XP. A bit less well known is that in the last six years the MacOS has gone through five major releases, 10.1-10.5, all named after large cats; Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger and now Leopard.
Many people have been excited over the release of Microsoft and Apple’s newest operating systems, but both are also receiving a good share of criticism.
Both the Windows and Mac operating system have reached a level of maturity that is unprecedented. Many if not all of the major operating system flaws have been fixed, the interface has been established, and there isn’t a whole lot more to do.
As a result, many people are calling both Vista and Leopard ‘eye-candy;’ saying that Microsoft and Apple are simply slapping a new face on their product and selling it for an over-priced cost.
Some of this criticism is justly given, Apple claims that Leopard has 300+ new features, but many of the ‘features’ are simple tweaks in programs like iChat; Apple’s chat client, DVD Player and the addition of some new screen savers.
Vista and Leopard, though, have actually made some significant changes. The problem is that most of these changes lie in the base code of the system; something the end user never sees. It’s the changes that no one sees, however, that make the operating system more secure and stable. This is what is most important in the long run.
A few people have suggested that the computer industry is at a point now where Microsoft and Apple could stop creating ‘new’ operating systems and simply roll out new security patches and updates every few months. This scenario may seem unlikely at first, as both Microsoft and Apple need to sell their operating systems in order to make money. However, both these companies are starting to diversify.
Microsoft makes a lot of software beyond Windows. Microsoft Office is one of their best selling programs. Microsoft has entered the gaming industry with the X-Box and the 360, and is also trying to work it’s way into the advertising market.
Apple’s iPod has taken off and pushed the portable media market to new heights. This last year Apple dropped the word “Computer” from their name to become Apple Inc, (formerly Apple Computer Inc.) Apple has released a new media center device called the Apple TV, and this June entered the cell phone market with the iPhone.
As technology continues to mature the future of these companies is uncertain. Consumers are not always willing to spend a few hundred dollars every year for a new operating system, especially when the one they have now works perfectly fine. Whether that point has been reached yet or not it’s hard to say, but don’t be surprised if it happens sometime in the near future.