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Windows 8 and Mac OSX Lion

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Now that both Microsoft and Apple have announced and revealed a few details about their flagship operating systems, we thought it good to examine both in an effort to discern the direction both companies are headed in the war of the operating systems.

One of the greatest factors influencing both new operating systems is the growing popularity of tablet computing. There is no secret that Apple's iPad is the current tablet king. So far, none of its competitors have been able to duplicate its success or offer any meaningful competition. Microsoft's entry of Windows 7 into the tablet market has been anything but successful. Of course, Windows 7 was designed to be used on desktop and laptop computers, not tablets. The flurry of tablet releases coming down the pike in time for this year's holiday season will predominantly feature some version of the Android OS from several manufacturers. Some are expected to give the iPad some stiff competition, but it remains to be seen if they will do very well against the strength of the iPad. iPad shortages should be remedied in time for this year's holiday season. If the timing of the Windows 7 2009 release is any indication, Windows 8 will most likely appear just in time for the 2012 Christmas shopping season.

For those who have not seen the preliminary new Windows 8 look, check out this ZDNet article that includes a Microsoft video introduction to some new features of Windows 8.

If you have not yet seen any information on Mac OSX Lion, check out this Gizmodo article complete with video and screenshots highlighting the newest features that will be available as an Apple Store download in July at a cost of $29.99.

Microsoft has taken a great OS in Windows 7, and used it as a base to develop Windows 8. As far as I am concerned, Windows 7 is the best OS Microsoft has ever produced. It is the only Microsoft OS that I have purchased as an upgrade as soon as it was launched in October 2009. In the past, I have always waited for the first Service Pack to be released before investing in a Windows upgrade, but my research indicated that to be unnecessary with Windows 7. From information released about Windows 8, I do not have the confidence to warrant an early purchase of any Windows 8 upgrade in 2012. One factor is that Microsoft has seen fit to develop Windows 8 so that it can run on tablets, netbooks, laptops and desktops. There should be more than one edition of Windows 8, so that tablets will have a trim downed version to power them. One potential advantage to Windows 8 could be the ability to run common apps on all devices. That remains to be seen, as the apps running on Windows desktops and laptops would likely need to be modified to run on ARM processors.

Designating the new Metro User Interface (touch tiles) as the default to run on all desktops makes little sense. Many of the experts have expressed real reservations concerning Microsoft's attempt to make Windows 8 all things to all people, and I believe they have made a very valid point. Unless one has a touch screen all in-one-desktop, the default Metro UI is a bit cumbersome for mouse and keyboard selection. It was designed for touch screen operation, such as in tablet hardware (or its inspiration, the Windows Phone 7). Even on a touch screen all-in-one desktop, the interface would be awkward to many as it requires reaching across the desk to select tiles by touch. Give me a mouse and keyboard for control any day. Of course, from what I have gathered, beneath the new desktop, there is the familiar Windows 7 graphical user interface, and it is supposed to be available with a mouse click. Hopefully, the Metro UI can be turned off by users possessing a standard desktop and LCD panel setup, just as Windows 7 allows specific features to be turned off. Still, I wonder why MS would bloat their flagship OS on desktops and laptops with built in tablet capabilities rather than developing a Tablet OS that is scaled specifically for tablet use. Adding features that most Windows users would never use on a desktop or laptop increases system overhead and drains hardware resources with no quantifiable benefit to the user. It will indeed be interesting to see the shape of Windows 8 in it's RTM (release to manufacturing) version in 2012, and the welcome it receives from all users, especially small to medium business and Enterprise customers. Microsoft will either have a hit on its hands, or a nightmare to rival the release of Windows Vista.

Apple's Mac OSX Lion also incorporates some iOS (tablet) features in their new Mac OS. However, they have incorporated some of the best, most popular features of iOS to Mac OSX Lion. There are at least 250 new features in Lion, and not all of them originated with iOS. This is shaping up to look more like a major overhaul than an incremental upgrade to OSX. iMac machines will not be changed to a touch screen design. Instead, there will be the availability of a Multi-touch gesture pad which can provide touch control similar to what you would experience on an iOS device. This will include resizing gestures as well. That will make it much easier to enjoy the benefits of touch without having to stretch across your desk to engage your display. And of course the MacBook line already features a great gesture track pad. Apple's approach seems to be a reasonable one that will be welcomed by the majority of Mac users, and may attract new users as well. At least Apple is still maintaining different operating systems for its desktops/laptops and tablet devices.

I use Windows 7 more than the Mac OS, but I must say I am more impressed by Apple's approach to OSX Lion than by Microsoft's Windows 8 design at this point.

How about you? I invite all you Windows and Mac users to chime in with your thoughts.

Edited by Joe V

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Come on, we're talking about Microsoft here - there will be a few versions available for the OS.

Personally, I like the direction they're going with Windows 8.

I would love a touchscreen in every room of the house - listening to music, browse the web, or just watch a video. It shouldn't matter what type of appliance you're using - the interface should be familiar across all of them.

I think that's the direction even Apple will eventually take. You can already see hints of this with their OS X Lion update.

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I have an HP Touchsmart all-in-one that I use on a daily basis (for business and entertainment). I go back and fourth with touch, keyboard, and mouse. I love it!

We are moving to a point where you will be able to run your desktop software on any appliance (ie. tablet).

All computers (appliances) in the near future will have touch capabilities. Creating an interface that will work on anything is a smart move.

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You may be right on the money Joe. I can see home users going that way sooner than business and Enterprise users. The only touch screen I have is the iPad. I do hope MS includes the the Metro UI as one of the Windows features that can be turned on or off according to user preference.

In any case there is a lot more to discover about Windows 8, and it will be interesting when the first beta becomes available.

Have a great weekend!

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WOW. How opinions differ from one side of the globe to the other. Some months ago, I was presented with a new HP, for my office, running Windows 7. It is dreadful. My old Vista was far better, but neither will ever come up against my personal Mac. I would think maybe Microsoft has different standards for various parts of the world. Only way to explain how bad it is. Most everyone I know in this part of Australia has switched to Mac. I recently bought a small tablet running Google Android. It is powered by our national carrier Telstra. Cost $149 AUD. Great for travelling. Runs on the mobile phone network and is blisteringly fast. Email, web surfing video etc all available. 5 gig storage and WIFI built in. I love it!! And, it doesn't have the dreaded Windows.

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