Well, last night I installed build 7000 of Windows7, Microsoft’s next OS, that will have windows be what it should’ve been in Vista. It will be a hit, no doubt, New Zealand’s PC World magazine seem to be raving about it, but do you know why it will be a hit? Because it is Microsoft’s version of Apple’s OSX.
According to PC World NZ’s Dec/Jan issue, it’s Vista that was playing catchup with OSX and that in Windows7, “virtually none of what’s new feels like warmed-over OSX.”
Well I don’t have a clue how Vista was catching up with OSX, cause I used it for a year and it just looked like XP with an Aero interface to me.
But let’s take a look at Windows7. Just how much of it is OSX?
Well let’s look at the main features:
The Superbar. PC World claim that this “looks a bit like OSX’s dock, though it doesn’t behave like the dock”. Well for a start, if it doesn’t behave like OSX’s dock, then it’s probably not as good, and also, I think it jolly well does behave like the dock! In MacOS you can right click on a dock icon to go “keep in dock”, in Windows7, you click “pin to taskbar”. The only advantage it has over Apple’s dock is that it is Apple’s dock and menu bar in one, but then the moment you choose to auto-hide the taskbar, you have no permanently viewable clock any more, and on Apple’s menu bar you can do useful things like navigate iTunes without Microsoft’s huge WMP taskbar thingy, set your Adium status, run backups, and see your sound volume, all within the space of 7cm on screen. So whether the one bar instead of Apple’s two is really an advantage, remains to be seen.
Windows7’s peek and thumbnail features don’t cut the mustard for me. They are basically Mac’s expose feature, rehashed for windows, (yes, the thumbnails were in vista, but now they’re actually useable). It’s hard to explain unless you try them both, so just trust me, expose is a lot better at showing you what’s open and letting you navigate to it than Windows7.
Some annoying features like User Account Control and over-full system trays are now gone, but let’s not forget that Apple never added them in the first place, only asking for your password whenever you install a program, and leaving you alone the rest of the time.
Mac has also always been prettier, a non-essential, but often important point. You can switch to windows classic theme in version 7 if you want to save RAM, but with the new superbar, it’s officially ugly (with the old taskbar it was actually bearable).
One big feature of Win7 that I haven’t been able to try is the touch screen technology, but let’s not forget who made touch screen technology much more prevalent by creating a certain phone…
Networking is apparently easier in Win7 with the homegroup feature, but that’s a far cry from Mac’s easy almost plug and play sharing, and Apple’s bonjour network feature can be used to make printer sharing easier on your PC network too.
Oh and Windows now support’s H.264 video and AAC audio. Now that’s a concession to Apple, even PC World admit. Apple have simply creamed Microsoft in the entertainment world. Would you rather have an iPod or a Zune? What’s a Zune, I hear you ask? I don’t know anyone who has one. At least Microsoft are being mature enough to concede this one, and go for compatibility. It may rescue some market share, who knows?
That leaves Microsoft’s desire for more web integration, via their Windows Live services, making many programs only available via online download now. What the advantage is to the OS speed when you remove something so that someone can waste bandwidth putting it back in again, is beyond me, but hey. And let’s not forget Apple’s MobileMe web services, which seem to have been getting stronger for a while now, while Microsoft’s hotmail has been giving way to gmail and Google’s web services dominate the PC market. Meanwhile Apple hold their own well against the internet giant, with iPhoto being an obvious preference over Picasa, and the traditional desire for good design among mac users makes WordPress seem more appealing than Google’s blogger to me.
Now undoubtedly PC users will lap up Windows7, oblivious to who’s innovations they’re really buying. But for those enlightened among you, who may say “well now Microsoft are catching up, we don’t need to change”, I have three things to say:
1) The ways in which Microsoft are gaining ground on MacOS will be gone again as soon as the next great OS idea comes along that Apple do first. Apple have beaten Windows7 to some of these ideas by five years or more, and there is no evidence to suggest that the next great idea is going to come from Microsoft, judging by what they’ve taken from Apple this time around. So you’ll have to wait another 5 years next time Apple think of something Windows could do with.
2) Due to patents (I assume), Microsoft can’t copy any of these ideas and make them as good as the original’s, Apple’s expose being the obvious example. So next time Apple come up with an idea that Microsoft copy, it will have to be made just bad enough of a copy to not be worth a court battle for Apple.
3) I often hear people say they can’t be bothered changing because they don’t want to learn a new system. This is no longer an issue. Win7 is a big change, and if you are going to spend some time learning a new system, better that it’s MacOSX Leopard!
Moving on from Windows7, I am loving Safari 4 (which I am using on Windows7 along with iTunes, hehe), and I am also loving controlling my mac and PC with the same mouse and keyboard, using a nifty little app called Synergy. Try it if you have multiple computers, it saves desk space and time!