Windows 7 vs. Snow Leopard: InfoWorld And Others Out For a Troll.

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It was a fine day, so InfoWorld’s Randall C. Kennedy decided to take a nice stroll through the tech neighborhood. I’d say the resulting piece is destined for the link bait Hall of Fame, but I know it’s just the beginning. The launch of new Operating Systems by Microsoft and Apple is too good an event to pass up.

I think analysis of each OS is great, and that an inflammatory headline (“Is Snow Leopard just a cheap Windows 7 knockoff?“) in and of itself does not make for a bad article. However, when you read the thing, and see the outlandish and silly claims made, you know its true purpose. No matter the headline, I’d like thought and reasoning to back it up. The IW piece lacks that.

InfoWorld’s Reasons For The Headline

“Yippee,! Apple finally goes 64-bit — BFD! As a Windows user, I’ve been livin’ la vida 64-bit for more than three years. Vista was the first mainstream desktop OS to deliver a viable 64-bit experience”

Oh please. You mean Microsoft should be rewarded for being unable to bring 64-bit in any manner other than a separate OS? One that requires you to purchase a new license, blow away your existing setup, and start over? This is why there’s a small percentage of people running 64-bit Windows. Microsoft’s 64-bit strategy is so overwhelmingly hostile and user unfriendly that no one bothers.

As for Apple’s implementation not being “fully” 64-bit, spare me. I have an icon in 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate for a 32-bit Internet Explorer, and I run it because some sites don’t play with the 64-bit version. So what’s all this nonsense about a “full” 64-bit system?

That Apple’s 64-bit strategy is vastly superior to Microsoft’s is obvious to anyone who bothers to think it through. The idea that separate OSs make more sense for this is ludicrous.

“This one’s [Exposé in the Dock] a joke, right? Am I to understand that Apple is just getting around to adding this? Microsoft has been offering this type of functionality (aka thumbnail preview)”

Nice of Kennedy to ask if this is a joke, because his argument certainly is. Exposé has been around for years, including the ability to see all of one app’s open windows. Snow Leopard simply adds yet another way to invoke it, in addition to the configurable keyboard, mouse, and gesture options already available. Options that Windows 7 lacks.

Mac OS X also includes Spaces, a higher-level method of organizing windows. In short, Mac OS X Leopard, all by itself, blows Windows 7 away in this regard. Snow Leopard simply increases Apple’s lead.

“So while I’m glad to see Apple finally getting on the ball with its PDF handling (I hear the updated viewer lets you basically do away with the piggish Adobe Reader for most common tasks), I’m still utterly stunned by the fact that this is even an issue.”

Kennedy is bent out of shape about Apple’s Preview enhancements for PDFs. But Preview allowed most Mac users to “do away” with Acrobat the day it was first delivered, that ability is not new to Snow Leopard.

In any case, Leopard allowed for previews of multiple pages in a PDF file (via Quick Look), and enhances that capability in Snow Leopard. Further, it allows for “smart” text selection that I’m looking forward to. Finally, it will be sped up considerably. Given that it already blows past Acrobat, the new speed will truly leave Adobe behind.

“Can you believe the Apple folks used to charge for this thing [QuickTime Pro]? I guess they saw the writing on the wall, what with Microsoft releasing yet another excellent iteration of its free Movie Maker application.”

Comparing QuickTime Pro to Windows Live Movie Maker is nothing more than proof of either ignorance or link baiting. The real comparison (and it’s no contest) is between Movie Maker and iMovie. The latter blows the former away. It’s not even close.

InfoWorld’s Conclusion

“I’ve often referred to Windows 7 as “Vista R2,” an incremental follow-up release that was mostly about righting the wrongs of its predecessor.”

So have lots of people, which is why Microsoft began their campaign to say the same thing about Snow Leopard. Isn’t it odd they can’t think of a decent reason for Windows 7 except that “It’s better than Vista” (how could it be worse?) and “Apple does it, too” (wrong).

“Viewed in these terms, Mac OS X Snow Leopard is more like a service pack: a collection of bug fixes and minor functional enhancements that, quite frankly, should have been in the original release. As such, Snow Leopard is nothing to get all excited about; it’s not worth even the modest “upgrade” price Apple is asking.”

The “service pack” line is right out of Redmond’s talking points memo. I guess since many people think that’s what Windows 7 is, Microsoft put all their big brains together and came up with the “I know you are, but what am I” defense. Brilliant.

My Conclusion

Microsoft displays a certain disdain for what Apple accomplished with Snow Leopard. Their supporters have whined about it for months, and the heat is really on now. As if Microsoft wouldn’t love to refine Windows under the hood. As if Windows doesn’t need refinement under the hood! Get rid of the antiquated registry, get a handle on DLL issues we’ve had for years, remove the bloat, add better security, and don’t require separate versions for 32- and 64-bit. But they can’t. They don’t have the vision, they don’t have the priority, and they don’t have the desire to make things better for their user base.

Finally, though Kennedy’s article is link bait, and doesn’t deserve one, here’s a link. Expect more like this as the Microsoft FUD machine rolls onward. In fact, Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows has a “Quick Take” on Snow Leopard that’s almost as bad as Kennedy’s. And then there’s Ed Bott’s cherry-picked data that uses the “service pack” meme from the Microsoft playbook. All these articles posted on the same day (8/25); these folks are well-schooled.

Can Mary Jo Foley and the rest of Microsoft’s tech press friends be far behind? More of this is undoubtedly on the way; brace yourselves for some pretty foul stuff.

Forget The Snow: Windows 7 Is Behind Mac OS X Leopard

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I don’t know why Microsoft is worried about Snow Leopard. They want to dismiss it as a “service pack” or some such nonsense, but they’re worried about the wrong OS in my opinion.

Microsoft should be worried about Leopard. Yep, plain ol’ Leopard, without the snow. In my eyes Windows 7 is still behind that OS, so Snow Leopard will just be gravy on top of Apple’s lead.

Sure, Windows 7 is an improved OS. Perhaps, as Steve Ballmer says, it’s even Vista done right. But what does that mean? While no one thought Vista would be the failure it is, neither did anyone think it would be particularly special. So if they’ve finally done it “right” that only makes it the XP successor we should have had five years ago. Even with the whiz-bang features added, it’s lack of polish is evident.

Here’s a sample of what I miss from Leopard when I’m working on Windows 7:

  • One-click access to my most common folders (i.e., can’t add folders directly to the taskbar);
  • No folder springload capability;
  • No QuickLook;
  • No stacks with a graphical or hierarchical view of folders;
  • No easy way to keep the screen uncluttered via virtual desktops (instead I must minimize windows to get things out of the way);
  • The taskbar scrolls (ugh!) when it runs out of space, instead of elegantly resizing to fit;
  • No easy way to see all windows at once.
  • I can see the whole desktop, but it’s only for viewing, whereas on the Mac it’s “live”;
  • I can Command-Tab to switch apps, but on the Mac that’s “live” as well.

So even with Aero Peek and the new taskbar, Windows 7 is not very “smart”. Why not let you pin folders? Why not show all my windows? To me these are obvious details that Microsoft just didn’t think of, or can’t implement on the aging Windows code base. Meanwhile, it’s the attention to detail Apple’s famous for. I use these things without thinking about them, and miss them on a system from 2009 that sometimes seems to have been designed a decade earlier.

Windows 7 adds nice enhancements over Vista, but not the Mac. For me it’s nowhere near the Mac even just in terms of keeping your apps, folders, files, desktop and windows under control; too many clicks are still required.

Windows 7 runs fine, has been stable, no viruses (yet), and I can’t imagine anyone using the new taskbar for more than 60 seconds and not thinking it’s miles ahead of the old one. Still, it’s only a start and there’s a long way to go. Snow Leopard isn’t even needed for this round.

Hey Microsoft, I Fixed Your Windows 7 Upgrade Chart

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Microsoft created an upgrade chart for Window 7. Bottom line is it says if you want to upgrade to Windows 7 you should buy a new PC. Oh sure, you can “upgrade” without buying new hardware, but you’ll be in pain and probably traumatized for life. Who needs that?

So, with the understanding that new hardware is the best way to go, I’ve taken the liberty of simplifying the chart considerably:

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Now you only have to worry about which one of the many different OS editions you’re coming from, not which one of the many different OS editions you’re going to. The destination OS has just a single, “ultimate” edition. It’s as simple as that.

No need to thank me, Microsoft, just trying to help out.

Windows 7 Starter Edition: No Desktop Picture For You

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The Supersite for Windows has some nice screenshots of Windows 7 Starter Edition (i.e., the edition for netbooks).

Starter edition is crippled over the other editions in several ways, such as fewer provided games, fewer utilities, no Aero interface, etc. But the crippled feature I find most interesting is that you cannot change the desktop background; you can’t customize the desktop.

It must be really sad for Microsoft to have so little faith in the upgrade from Starter — Home Premium — that they have to make you stare at a generic desktop picture in order to help spur you to upgrade. Apparently, they don’t think Home Premium’s features are enough enticement on their own. I mean, what other purpose could there be for such a stupid desktop restriction on Starter other than Microsoft fearing that if you could customize the desktop, you wouldn’t really “miss” anything else, and therefore have little desire to upgrade?

Windows 7’s various editions make less and less sense as each day goes by. When Mac OS X Leopard gets here, I think I’ll just get the “Ultimate” version. Oh, that’s right, that’s all they sell. It’s yet again a good time to be a Mac user.

Apple vs. Microsoft OS Family Packs: Microsoft Loses

As more and more households have multiple PCs, the idea of a “family pack” (i.e., a piece of software with multiple licenses for use) makes a lot of sense. With Apple and Microsoft set to release new versions of their respective operating systems this fall (Snow Leopard in September, Windows 7 on October 22), it’s interesting to look at the family pack that will be available for each.

Microsoft

Microsoft finally ended the rumors and speculation of a Windows 7 Family Pack, announcing that there would indeed be such a product:

The Windows 7 Family Pack will be available starting on October 22nd until supplies last here in the US and other select markets. In the US, the price for the Windows 7 Family Pack will be $149.99 for 3 Windows 7 Home Premium licenses.

It’s not that paying $150 for three licenses is a bad deal, it’s just that the paragraph above pretty much constitutes the entire announcement, and that’s bad because:

  • Home Premium. Where is the Family Pack for Professional? What about Ultimate? Sadly, there is no such thing. Why isn’t Microsoft bundling the other editions in similar “family friendly” offerings?
  • Until supplies last. Huh? This is a software product on disc that comes with a three-user license, there are no “supplies” to run out. The only thing that can run out is Microsoft’s desire to provide this value to the consumer.

So, Microsoft will punish those who desire Professional or Ultimate by requiring full licenses even if they want to run it on all the PCs in the house. It’s practically an engraved invitation to pirate the software.

Further, after some as-yet-unnamed amount of time passes, the Home Premium deal will be withdrawn. Is this just a maneuver to juice up early sales for PR purposes, and once they can report big numbers of licenses sold they’ll just end the deal?

Apple

By contrast, Apple’s upcoming Snow Leopard will be sold in family packs for $49 with five licenses. This is a much better deal than Microsoft’s in many ways:

  • Obviously, $50 for five license is a much better deal than $150 for three.
  • Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t mess with crippled editions. Their family pack will consist of the full (“Ultimate”, to use Microsoft’s term) version of Snow Leopard.
  • There is no expiration date on availability.

I think it was a great move for Microsoft to offer a family pack for Windows 7, but I believe they’re misguided to limit it to just the “cheap” edition, and even then to make the offer short-term.