Daniel Eran Dilger
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Why Windows 7 is Microsoft’s next Zune

Windows 7 Zune

Daniel Eran Dilger

Every once and a while I get the opportunity to appear brilliantly prescient by pointing out something that is blatantly obvious but which has been so obscured by valiant marketing efforts that it makes me look like a grand wizard at detecting emperor nakedness just to say it. In this case, it’s that Windows 7 is becoming the next Zune.
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Consider the Zune.

Over the past couple years, while I enjoyed explaining why the Zune was set up for disastrous failure, I was even more entertained by the caustically religious response that it elicited from Windows Enthusiasts. I was accused of predicting things nobody could yet know and was assailed for being “biased,” as if the facts and rationale I presented to outline why I thought the Zune was doomed were all based on wishful thinking and a blind attraction to Apple.

It’s almost like having the 22% of inbred Americans who think Iraq was involved in the attack on the World Trade Center point their quivering finger at me and disdainfully accuse me of being against war, all because I’m biased toward presidential candidates who can speak articulately and intelligently.

The problem with the Zune wasn’t just that it was from Microsoft, but that it was a copycat product trying to be something Apple already had delivered, which of course does means that the problem was related to being from Microsoft, as that’s all the company knows how to do. Despite being congratulated at every opportunity for copying other’s successes in a half-assed and often more expensive way, Microsoft’s business plan isn’t all that cool.

It’s not impressive when Korean car makers clone portions of a BMW, or when the Chinese attempt to copy the iPhone using portions of Windows Mobile, or when WalMart releases a suitable clone of Adidas sportswear it can market for ten dollars to the kind of people who live in sweats and drink most of their calories two liters at a time.

Microsoft’s attempts to copy the iPod was a store-brand strategy, hardly genius. In further laziness, however, the company didn’t just set out to make a copycat iPod but started by building on top of a flawed product that had already failed in the market. The Zune was a Toshiba Gigabeat with slightly different plastics and navigation, where “different” should not be confused with “better.”

Imagine Microsoft trying to enter the SUV market by taking a Pontiac Aztec and adding new pin striping and perhaps flames, and its obvious why the Zune was doomed even before considering how terrible Microsoft is at developing consumer software (Songsmith?), how counterintuitively bad the company is at forging relationships with media companies (the Zune was abandoned by MTV’s PlaysForSure Urge store in the first year), and how terrifically incompetent the company is at conceptualizing and delivering consumer features (I already cited Songsmith, so I’ll just point out the train wreck that Zune “WiFi sharing” was).

pontiac ass-tech

Why Microsoft’s Zune is Still Failing

Why Windows 7 is another Zune.

But wait, you may ask, the Zune was an effort by Microsoft to travel well outside its core competency. Microsoft has never delivered consumer hardware products outside of its Microsoft-branded Logitech mice and keyboards (and if you are counting those as innovative or interesting products, please put down the invisible scissors you’re using to craft those exquisite invisible clothes for the Redmond emperor before you hurt yourself with them), the company has never been cool, and has never really successfully sold anything to anyone outside of OEM hardware makers and brainwashed IT drones.

Windows is an entirely different story, say Windows Enthusiasts. Microsoft has sold those two categories of customers–PC makers and IT drones–so much “Windows” that it can afford to blow out billions in hobbies that never go anywhere, from Windows CE devices and Windows Mobile to Microsoft TV to SPOT watches to the Surface and the Xbox, which isn’t a game console business so much as a multi-billion dollar bribe to prevent video game developers from using open and interoperable APIs.

What Microsoft is really good at is keeping generic PC OEMs and IT drones happy, right? That’s where the company makes its money, and back in 2006 when I was pointing out how badly Windows Vista would tank, the conventional wisdom pundits were laughing at me because there was No Chance the company would fail at selling Windows, because it doesn’t have to sell Windows, it merely forces the industry to pay for it as a tax on all new hardware.

Even if Vista were terrible, they insisted, companies would still roll it out and PC makers would still force it down the throats of consumers, just as they had for the last fifteen years since Windows 3.1 showed up offering them a way to insist that their generic PCs were just as good as a Macintosh. No amount of terrible Windows software, from 98 to ME, had ever prevented Microsoft from milking the tech industry dry and starving out competitors selling products that actually worked. How could things possibly ever change?

CES: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
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How Microsoft has become the Beleaguered Apple ‘96

Vista? Que?

In retrospect, Vista was the Zune. Rather than Microsoft doing what it had been doing all along to please the PC makers and IT drones (that is, releasing a rewarmed version of Windows every few years that did little more than keep the tech industry consumed with keeping up with the latest version), Microsoft looked at Apple and tried to copy it. But what makes Apple interesting and successful as a hardware and software integrator is not transferable to a software monopolist.

The straw that broke Vista’s back was Microsoft’s attempt to give Windows XP a graphics compositing engine just like Mac OS X’s, a technology which Apple had initially debuted in 2000. Microsoft delivered its own version six years later, but the problem was that that feature, which worked so well to breathe new life into the Mac and differentiate it as a platform, was an unwelcome albatross around the neck of generic PCs.

Generic PCs are sold to be cheap. When Microsoft ripped off the Macintosh look and feel and introduced the first version of Windows that PC users could actually use (which was in 1991, six years after the introduction of the Mac and nearly ten years after Microsoft gained access to Apple’s technology as a software partner, and not in the early 80s as historical revisionists in Wikipedia attempt to claim in order to shore up some credibility for the company), PC users never claimed that Windows was anything comparable to the Mac environment. Instead, they prided themselves with how cheap they’d acquired their generic PC, and only ever mumbled about Apple’s superior user environment in an embittered shrugging off of somewhat out of reach sour grapes.

When Mac development at Apple ran off the track in the late 80s and early 90s and the creative forces behind the Mac jumped to NeXT and Be, Inc and to other efforts that seemed more promising, Windows gained credibility solely from the fact that nobody was around to show how hopelessly behind and conservative Microsoft was. The one-party tech kingdom ended up a Soviet Union of sorts, where everyone hailed the supreme leaders who were really doing so little to accomplish anything. Compare PCWorld from the 90s with Pravda and you’ll find lots of similarities.

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Microsoft’s Mojave Experiment Exposes Serious Vista Problems

NeXT strikes back.

When Mac OS X broke loose on the scene, Microsoft realized the danger of allowing a competitor to show up how little the company was doing in exchange for the massive profits it was syphoning off of the tech industry. Linux was already indicating how little Microsoft was adding in the enterprise software arena, but now Apple was proving the same thing to consumers, a market Linux didn’t have the unified leadership required to woo.

Vista was a desperate attempt by Microsoft to turn Windows into Mac OS X. In 2000, Windows was Windows 2000, aka NT 5. Microsoft had spent the 90s trying to deliver an alternative to Unix with the administrative ease of use of the Mac. In large part, it had succeeded with Windows 2000, but that accomplishment was embarrassed by the fact that a small group at NeXT had already delivered a superior product that did the same thing a full decade prior, albeit without losing any compatibility with Unix.

Bill Gates had used his position to hamstring NeXT and refused to develop for it, which had helped to hide the fact that all Microsoft had managed to do in the 80s was copy Apple’s Mac, poorly, and all it had managed to do in the 90s was copy NeXT, badly.

Now, all of a sudden, NeXT was back in the form of Mac OS X. Except this time it had two new features: an open foundation based on open source software (a heretical liberal cancer in the mindset of Microsoft’s hard liners) and an advanced compositing graphics engine that promised to do to desktop graphics what QuickDraw had done for the original GUI in the early 80s, what QuickTime did for video in the early 90s, and what NeXTSTEP did for object oriented development in the same period: embarrass Microsoft.

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1990-1995: Microsoft’s Yellow Road to Cairo

Rise of the GPU.

Mac OS X’s Quartz graphics compositor wasn’t just a new feature. Apple was onto a very powerful new concept in computing: the offloading of desktop graphics to the GPU. The company realized that the CPU was no longer the engine that would define the power and usability of a computer. It was being eclipsed by the latent processing power of the GPU. Microsoft and Intel realized this too, to some extent.

In the late 90s, the team of tech monopolists tried frantically to figure out a way to get PC users, primarily running Office, to continue to buy increasingly faster PCs, but ran out of reasons for consumers to keep buying new PCs when their old one ran Word pretty decently already. Their solution was to build 3D visualizations into web pages, so that users would need a faster CPU to look at crap on the web designed entirely to make their CPU hot. This was the extent of their vision.

Microsoft also saw games as a reason for buyers to spend absurd amounts for PC hardware, but Microsoft doesn’t sell hardware, so all it could do was devise software to make games that only worked on Windows, further tying Windows to PCs sales. This wasn’t so much a strategy as a reaction, a ploy to shore up the moat surrounding its monopoly.

While Microsoft and Intel were in monopoly maintenance mode, a myopic condition that almost always results in a face planting stumble before long, Apple was assembling a GPU strategy that took everything painted on the screen and made it an OpenGL surface. The Mac OS X desktop was now a video game; individual windows could be slurped into the Dock with their contents being rendered live during the animation. Vector art could resize with liquid realism.

Ten Myths of Leopard: 1 Graphics Must Be Slow!

Microsoft tries to clone Mac OS X.

Microsoft wanted to stop the comparisons between Apple’s new Aqua-smooth operating system and its boxy Windows 2000, so it renamed the next NT 5.1 service pack Windows XP, in the hopes that consumers would confuse XP and OS X just as quickly as they might equate Mr. Pibb for Dr Pepper.

The problem was that Apple capitalized upon its core technologies to rapidly outpace Windows XP, which despite being a fairly decent operating system fitting the needs of PC makers and IT drones, could not fake the ability to render its graphics using a modern Open GL surface, but was instead tied to the simpler graphics model Apple had originally introduced in the early 80s, which Microsoft duplicated in the flattering imitation of Windows GDI.

In the last few years, Apple rapidly advanced its graphics compositing engine to take increasingly fuller advantage of the untapped power of GPUs. Similar efforts on Windows have been entirely limited to screen savers and video games. However, while this was a source of embarrassment to Microsoft, it did not represent much of a problem for Microsoft’s key customers, who are not consumers and end users, but rather PC makers and IT drones.

When Microsoft released its own graphics compositing engine in Windows Vista (NT 6), it hoped to wow consumers sufficiently enough to jack up the price of Vista significantly. However, the PC buyers of 2007 were largely the same cheapskate demographic of 1991 who prized cheapness over utility. Microsoft’s attempts to make Vista match the graphics savvy of Mac OS X were like WalMart trying to introduce its sweats-wearing customers to organic vegetables.

Pearls before PC users.

Like the proverbial swine who have pearls thrown at them, they reacted with umbrage and ferocity. They’d grown used to every version of Windows being slower, but Vista was much slower without any advantage apart from looking more like Mac OS X. If they wanted a nice looking computer, they’d have bought a Mac.

PC buyers wanted trough-cheap hardware with the least invasive annoyance of Microsoft possible. Instead, they got a more expensive operating system that demanded greater hardware resources, didn’t quite work with their existing software and peripherals, was significantly slower overall, pushed Microsoft into their faces to a greater extent, and attempted to extort Vista upgrade to unlock Ultimate features Apple was offering for free in Mac OS X.

When somebody asks for an iPod and you hand them a Zune, which has no cost advantage, no compatibility with either the iPod nor PlaysForSure, is slow and looks silly, they fail to see any reason to buy it. Connecting the dots between the Zune experience and Vista should not be necessary at this point.

Windows 7’s audience problem.

However, what some pundits are still missing is that Microsoft’s promise that Windows 7 is some flawless hyper-jump advancement over Vista is a typical Microsoft assurance, with all the utility of toilet paper. Apart from cleaning up an unpleasant mess, there’s not much else it’s suitable for. Recall that Microsoft has also promised that each version of Windows was its best operating system ever, even as each got slower as it dragged along the legacy required to please its customers, which again is not consumers but PC makers and IT drones.

Windows 7 does offer some real fixes for Vista, which it damn well should a full three years after that high-priced catastrophe was launched. The problem is that Microsoft’s customers, those same PC makers and IT drones, do not want another generation of Vista and its Mac OS X-envy imitation. They want a thin layer of supportable software that runs legacy Windows software. That’s not at all what Windows 7 is aiming to do.

PC makers are desperately trying to weather the storm of a brutally competitive market that is shrinking globally for the first time ever. They don’t want a fancy bunch of glitz that shows the power of GPUs, they want Windows XP as cheaply as possible so they can apply it to netbooks and sell something, anything, before they go out of business.

IT drones don’t want a layer of GPU sophistication, they want Windows XP as cheaply as possible so they can roll out centralized services in the pattern of mainframes and dumb terminals, the game they were playing when Microsoft waltzed in and sold them on PCs running DOS and then Windows as an alternative to the terminals they’d been using.

Netbooks killing off sickly Windows PC sales

Bad news: Windows 7 no faster than Vista.

The fact that Microsoft has borrowed its operating system strategy from Apple is also the reason why Windows 7 is no faster than Vista. Anecdotal excitement from Windows Enthusiasts aside, recent testing (by no less than PC World) has shown that Windows 7 does nothing to noticeably speed up PCs over the baseline performance of Vista. That’s a huge problem for PC makers and IT drones who have pushed back against Vista adoption in large measure because it was too slow.

It’s also a rude awakening to the dreamy illusion that Windows 7 would somehow enable Microsoft to sell a Vista-based operating system for netbooks that was wildly faster than Vista and therefore could bring the company greater revenues on netbooks compared to the Windows XP it had been dumping on netbook makers for next to nothing, just to prevent them from using Linux instead.

Never mind the reality that even if Windows 7 were spry and capable on netbooks, Microsoft wouldn’t be able to bleed significant software revenues from the ultra cheap hardware that is now commonly selling for $300 or less. The big problem is that Microsoft can’t speed up Windows 7 appreciably because it is Vista, and the reason Vista is so slow is not just because Microsoft didn’t have the time to worry about optimizing code in its 6 years of gestation, but centrally due to the fact the Microsoft was copying Apple to deliver a product that is not like the one Apple wanted to deliver.

Speed Test: Windows 7 May Not Be Much Faster Than Vista

Microsoft is no Apple.

Microsoft does not have Apple’s audience of sophisticated consumers, and it’s ridiculous that the company keeps trying to pretend that it does. Microsoft serves an installed base of cheapskates through a blackmailed array of PC hardware companies who are forbidden from selling alternative software by exclusive licensing contracts. It also services, at very high cost to companies, a large number of corporate cube-holders who have no voice in the technology decisions forced upon them by corporate IT drones.

Both markets are impossibly out of reach to Apple. That’s why Apple does not copy Microsoft’s development or marketing strategies; they simply wouldn’t work at Apple. But the converse is also true; Microsoft can’t be successful at its own business by copying Apple, because the two companies serve very different markets.

The Zune clone of the iPod was a good example of this and the results of trying. It’s like stealing answers from your classmate during a test, even though you know he’s taking an entirely different exam. Don’t plan on acing your test no matter how smart he is!

Microsoft’s consumer failure is only going to get worse.

The biggest problem for Microsoft, outside of the fact that it is getting ready to release another tepid Zune to follow up the original lead balloon Zune (and if you didn’t catch that metaphor, I’m talking about following up Vista with Windows 7), is that the PC cheapskates and IT drones are not as valuable as Microsoft seems to think they are. All the buzzword dropping around netbooks aside, the real value in PC hardware and consumer electronics is in delivering devices that work, which users will pay extra to obtain.

That’s a market Apple has locked up. Despite the efforts by Dell and HP and Acer to tiptoe past Microsoft’s Iron Curtain and investigate free market ventures using Linux, none are even close to delivering a well-integrated product similar to the Mac. All they can do is cater to cheapskates with unprofitable, low-end hardware that is so problematic and virus-vulnerable that those consumers will be forced to return and buy a new PC within a year and a half.

Having staked out a business that serves PC makers first, IT drones second, and consumers dead last, Microsoft is left only to advertise that its software arrives on cheap hardware that isn’t burdened with being cool or sexy like Apple’s. As a marketing strategy, that’s so blatantly moronic that it’s hard to imagine a Fortune 500 company could decide to do that.

This company delivered also Vista and the Zune, and all I’m pointing out is that the company is getting ready to do the exact same thing this year. Now will all those people who insisted that Microsoft would never stop making increasing amounts of automatic money regardless of how badly it performs please post an apology? Thanks!

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  • John E

    way too much snark in this article for my taste. too bad, because its points are very insightful, but few except Mac fans will read through it all because of that.

    yes, MS has never been a good consumer products company. Explorer, Media Center, and Halo (the reason for XBox popularity) were all essentially created by another outfit MS then bought up and branded. when it tries on its own, like the Zune, the product is a klunker.

    and yes, Windows has never really been a consumer product. the OEM’s sell the actual product, PC’s of all descriptions, which they package and price like various brands of dish soap. for the enterprise market, yes, the IT’s do call the shots. and their #1 priority is protecting their own jobs/billable hours, which a exceptionally complicated thing like Windows ensures.

    so when MS attempted to market Vista as a consumer product (“the Wow!”), it really flopped. consumers want something (1) really useful (2) simple and (3) enjoyable – in that order – and Vista provided no improvement over XP for any of those, except a bit of eye candy as a fake (3). its one real improvement – better security – was still too little and too late on that issue to matter.

    and yes, MS keeps trying to copy Apple OS X features as if that were the secret to a good consumer product – more features! reportedly Win 7 goes even farther than Vista did in copying Tiger, now slavishly copying Leopard. and maybe the consumer will like this, i dunno. we’ll have to wait and see.

    i think the lesson for Apple is to ignore Windows 7 altogether as MS thrashes around trying to be something it is not, and keep focused instead on continually improving (1), (2), and (3) above for its own products as it has been doing the last few years. so when Snow Leopard comes out, that will be my criteria for whether it is an improvement over Leopard. we’ll have to wait and see.

    but the one thing Apple can’t do is stand pat.

  • GwMac

    Playing around with a Mac in a crowded Apple store in those few cities that even have an Apple store is hardly the same as getting quality time in the privacy of your own home to really get the feel for OS X. I live in a metro area of 500,000 people for example with not even one store with any Macs on display and I am sure there are many other cities out there like mine.

    Virtualbox and Wmware are certainly available for Windows along with several others. The beauty of my idea is that it would not cannibalize Mac sales. Think of it as a sample. Hell, I would even go so far as to suggest they include a coupon in the box for $100 off the price of a real Mac if they choose to buy one. My point is that Apple had a real chance to push our market share up to closer to 20% with the Vista fiasco and that window of opportunity is closing fast. Windows 7 is not nearly as bad as Dan would like you to believe, I know because I have used it. Apple cares far more about margins and profits than expanding the user base which is fine. I just wish they could figure out a way to do both and I do not see that happening anytime soon. Windows 7 will be good enough to keep the billions of minions firmly in Redmond’s grasp.

  • http://www.muir.tumblr.com John Muir

    @JohnE

    Well, as someone said above, this one’s a polemic. I’m with you on prefering a cooler headed tone as something with as much heat as this one just tends to play to the home fans and isn’t great for linking to a more general audience.

    As for your points about Apple, I wouldn’t worry. It’s painfully clear to everyone these days who’s leading the way. Even all the iPhone work Apple is doing is feeding right back into the Mac. Sweet times!

  • slappy

    Tell me this. Why is Microsoft still allowed to copy the Mac OS to this day? Or are there just enough slight variations to let them get away with this? I read recently that Widgets patents has been approved for Apple. How does this affect Windows copy of Widgets that they call Gadgets.

  • stevebert

    “…Not being a hater, just stating the facts.”

    Flame-bait. Not to mention complete drivel and totally off-topic. Waste other people’s time elsewhere, please.

    Now for the article. As usual, flawless reasoning and well written. Micro$oft whines about the Mac “tax”, but in reality, their latest OS offerings are as repulsive to their cheap-skate users as income tax is to libertarians or human decency is to Rush Limbaugh. The trend is not looking good for MS, though — the PC market is clamoring for even cheaper, minimalist net-book crap that can’t run Win7, or even Vista for that matter. MS’s user base will eventually put the company out of business, which is a shame because the dull mediocrity of Windows makes the Mac shine even brighter.

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  • beanie

    But ZuneHD looks like it is going to be a hit. So that means Win7 will be a hit also. ZuneHD probably will support 3D XNA games. Maybe even 3D Silverlight games, hopefully. Microsoft’s plan is to make a development platform that spans desktop, Zune, and mobile devices. If they pull it off, it would be a pretty compelling platform for developers.

    Vista has 24% traffic and rising as measured by NetApplications. XP has 62% traffic and declining. XP share is declining even with netbooks.

  • Ludor

    Dan: Very good work. Love and (a bit drunk) admiration from northern Europe.

  • http://www.muir.tumblr.com John Muir

    Thanks for the comic routine there Beanie.

    If there’s something a handheld screen needs it’s HD. I mean, man, those pixels are just way too big right?

  • http://www.muir.tumblr.com John Muir

    @GwMac

    How about this:
    – Windows 7 is launched with media fanfare
    – ZDNet and Enderle dance a happy dance
    – Enterprise drags its feet on upgrading, as always
    – Ordinary Joe Public really doesn’t give a damn
    – PC sales continue to struggle
    – Snow Leopard and new Macs continue to sell pretty well
    – The iPhone extends its reach

    I think that’s all quite likely. Vista wasn’t just a bad OS. It was the end of an era. PCs have really sunk down to being cheap, cheap Internet appliances. The high end is ever increasingly dominated by Apple. And the future is this little thing called smartphones.

    The whole notion that 7 will be a return to the glory days – as held by many clueless pundits – is just deranged. Ordinary people went through hell just to use the web. Not so much now. And in the future, it’ll seem like madness that these problems ever existed.

    The whole thing about skating not to where the puck is now but to where it will be, that’s what this all about. We’re right in the middle of the biggest shift in how the Internet is accessed, worldwide. That’s why even Microsoft have realised this stuff matters and is why they are consumed in their mad scramble to come to terms with it.

  • bartfat

    @GwMac

    Actually, there are ways for modifying OS X looks and feel, even for Leopard, it’s just that most people won’t bother ;)

    http://www.appletell.com/apple/comment/ultimate-leopard-tweaking-guide/

    also, i think the reason why microsoft allows people to modify their look and feel of the OS is because the changes AREN’T applied systemwide to all the applications, just the menus, taskbars, and icons, so it either makes some parts of their OS look better (or worse). in macs, all the apps use the same interface, so the look is uniform (but apple wants it to look a certain way), so I suppose that’s their reasoning for not allowing you to modify the look and feel unless you resort to hacks ;)

  • bartfat

    hey daniel, great article btw, it got me thinking on the whole subject.. i posted an earlier comment (rather lengthy) and I’m wondering why it says I’m waiting for approval by a moderator..? all of what i posted seems factual…

  • chelgrian

    Leaving specific screw ups such as the utter mess Microsoft have made of the Windows Explorer in Vista aside one of the main reasons Vista feels so slow is exactly because of the Aero/Desktop Compositing Engine. The trouble is that when Aero is on most of the legacy GDI+ calls are unaccelerated. If you have a native WPF application then things are as snappy as QuartzExtreme is.

    The trouble is there are ~15 years worth of GDI based applications out there that people expect just to work and even most WFP applications still have some GDI calls somewhere on their redraw path.

    Daniel is being unfair though to Microsoft’s mouse business though, the Intellimouse Explorer 3.0 is the best gaming mouse *ever*. It’s so good that Microsoft actually started making it again (in a darker shade of gray) in response to people complaining about them discontinuing it. Now if only they would start making the Natural Keyboard Pro again…their current ergonomic keyboards are soggy, the wrong shape and feel like they’ve been through a cost cutting exercise.

  • http://coderad.net StrictNon-Conformist

    Hi Daniel,

    Don’t interpret this as being from a Windows fanatic, but rather someone that develops software on many different platforms for a living:

    Using a benchmark of anything but a final release product will give different, and usually slower, performance than a final release product, because there’s these things:
    1. Not all code optimizations are turned on in the compiler.
    2. For all you know, they might decide to rewrite algorithms a bit in important places, since < 2% of the code tends to be run most of the time for what really matters.
    3. Debug output to log files, and debug code with various extra checks that aren’t in final release code.

    It wouldn’t be fair to take a current copy of Snow Leopard and state that that is how fast it will be for the final RTM product, either, for exactly the same reasons, and answers a lot for why the various beta firmware versions for the iPhone tend to be a bit poky compared to final release versions.

    All that being said, I find it interesting that you did not even touch on the interesting tidbit that Microsoft is going to have a special virtualization mode for running Windows XP stuff within Windows 7, but there are special processor hardware requirements involved: Microsoft DOES listen to customers when they say they need certain things, as clearly they’ve decided that they’d rather take customers forward with a more updated OS without all the backwards legacy stuff in it (like Mac OS X has been doing, much to grumbling of many developers and customers that need upgrades of software to run on new revisions: either method has a price that’s exacted, but the more frequently you break things up a bit, the less cruft that’s left running all over, partially by Darwining out software that isn’t fixed for updated versions) and do a Classic sort of environment like Apple did with OS 9 apps.

    Oh, I note you conflated prettiness with being utility: that’s not correct! Something can be pretty/attractive without being good utility, and something can be ugly as sin, but every good for utility, and in the best of both worlds, it’ll be pretty AND good utility. There’s one thing I commonly see in system apps that’s supported by OS X that is pretty, but not nearly as desirable for utility/practicality and user-friendliness: modal dialogs that are dropped down from the top of the active window smack in the middle, and are completely unmovable by the user, meaning that if there’s some data they want to view underneath, they now have two issues: it is a modal dialog, followed by it not even allowing them to move it somewhere else if it interferes with their workflow and view of what it may related to. Modal dialogs are definitely easier to develop with for developers, but often tend to be more of a hassle for users; at least for most Windows apps, as well as Windows itself (perhaps an exception with a system modal dialog used for getting passwords in Vista and later, which don’t really matter for what’s underneath) where there ARE modal dialogs, you can almost always move them out of your way to view something underneath: perhaps that’s not as “pretty” and “perfect” for symmetry as the fixed centered drop-down modal dialogs on OS X, but it is certainly more functional in most cases.

  • http://all.net/ hylas

    Daniel wrote:

    “Pearls before PC users.

    Like the proverbial swine who have pearls thrown at them, they reacted with umbrage and ferocity. They’d grown used to every version of Windows being slower, but Vista was much slower without any advantage apart from looking more like Mac OS X. If they wanted a nice looking computer, they’d have bought a Mac.”

    Or one that didn’t sass back.
    Your latest, Keith Olbermann moment … I swear I hear his voice to the facts you lay out as they reign down.
    It’s hard to compete with truth, especially “factual truth”.

    That 22% – funny, that – It’s also the number of people that identify themselves with the current Republican party.
    Coincidence?

    Never mind me – it’s my Quadrophenia kicking in again:
    “The Real Me”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTwSKepkmdE

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  • Snadert

    What adds to the fate of Win7 is the attitude of Redmond’s bullterrier Ballmer, who shows a great lack of compassion with his customers. I feel offended by his outbursts… ‘we have great software, it’s the customers who fail to see the magnitude of Vista’.

    Microsoft is on a dead track right now and the only way to get Win7 down the throat of both private customers and companies is with brute force. Redmons has to get back on their tracks, at least several releases of their OS and return to Win2K, being NT in disguise and NT a copy of Digital Equipment’s VMS.

    What people really want is a stable, fast and secure kernel with a customizable interface. Easy to deploy, small footprint and higly secure. No blatant Vista where it’s eyecandy looks like a My First Sony interface.

  • http://enduser enduser

    Dear StrictNon-Conformist,

    I am an enduser who goes to work and use microsoft xp and office applications and few gaming @ home. I started with windows 95 came 98,ME,2000,XP and now vista. Funniest thing is one problem i still see in microsoft operating system from 95SP2 windows illegal operation( now xp & vista is different). windows hangs no idea why when i run softwares like skype or word sometimes it hangs. Don’t tell me i shouldn’t use that software or some crap which all windows tech guys gives whenever they have an issue.
    I am really frustrated with the overall product. Everybody says windows is user friendly i dont agree, ( for that sake I dont agree the Mac os x or linux is user friendly but I can agree they are far better than microsoft ).
    Please don’t give crap program logics when u cant deliver good operating system. There is no doubt all the products delivered by microsoft of crap. May be apple might also have crap product i don’t know exactly for sure.But given that I have worked on all windows versions and almost all end users software, I have to say only one thing… “It is a shit… and it clearly shows that your inability to design a good software”

  • http://tiberiusmonkey.blogspot.com/ TiberiusMonkey

    Let me just say first, I’m a big fan of your blog and a massive Apple fan and own a number of their machines and devices. I also remember Microsoft of old and reached breaking point with them sometime ago.

    But I have to say, you’re a little off mark with some of your comments this time around, for example my games machine is honestly getting better performance over XP since I installed 7 RC (installing the new Nvidia drivers helped, even if they are the same number that 7 installs on install). In populated areas in Age of Conan I was getting around 35fps I’m now getting around 45fps and a lot of times pushing up around 60+ in normal play (which to be fair I could have got in XP but it’s the populated part that counts). I’ve installed the 32 bit version on my house mates 5 year old machine and she loves it, her machine is feeling slicker and faster.

    Now don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot wrong with Mircosoft, we still have way to many version choices and so on, I also resent when people argue about Microsoft security that I’m some how meant to cut Microsoft some slack because of their attempts with Vista and 7 when it’s taken them THIS long to make a reasonably secure OS.

    My point being though, underestimating Windows 7 would be the worse thing Apple could do right now.

  • enzos

    @John Muir #28 .. it might have been a technical dead-end but, all tricked out to the max, OS9 was great for me. I loved it! Actually sys 7.6.3 was a performance, stability and usability peak that 9.2 only just got back up to before it became “Classic”ed. OK, it crashed now and then but didn’t take files with it, didn’t bet viruses, etc., Appletalk networking was a cinch, and it ran Word 5.1 – perhaps (combined with the then-great Endnote and ChemOffice integrated via EGO for Word) the best thing – for me – Microstupid ever made. OSX is only now catching up on the ease of use front and MS Office is still getting over the HI disaster introduced with the execrable Word 6. End nostalgia (which isn’t what it used to be either!).

  • Rob Scott

    John Muir { 05.09.09 at 9:43 pm } said it best! Thanks John.

    Winbots never fail to mention the fact that Micro$oft stole Apples lunch (OS wars) while failing to mention many Apple runaways: iPod, iTunes, App Store and the iPhone. They at the same time purposely forget many failures from their naked empire. It would be nice from time to time that an eloquent writer like Daniel remind these cheap stakes about Micro$oft’s humongous failures.

    Maybe when time permits Daniel will go thru these Micro$oft FAILURES one by one again:

    1) Zune (what an abomination!)
    2) XBox (+/- US$8 billion flushed down the toilet and they will soon spend billions of US dollars launching new hardware, only for Apple to steal their lunch in a year or two.)
    3) Vista (what a pig, all those who bought Vista got ass-raped by Micro$haft)
    4) MSN (horrendous)
    5) WinMo (sucks donkey balls)
    6) Live Search (what a joke, those losers cannot do anything innovative with search. I hope Google kicks their asses for the next 100 years.) and soon to be joined by
    7) Vista 2.1 aka Windoze 7 (my company will not be downgrading to this resource hog)

    I know Daniel has covered all these in the past and in this article. It would be nice thought if he were to revisit all of them again especially with all this Windoze 7 hype from Winbots and Micro$oft apologists, damn there are some even in this thread.

    Re the article I agree with everything Daniel has written. I would also like to add that there in not much “innovation” left in the desktop OS (esp. from Micro$oft) but only maintenance. Once Apple is done with 64 bit, GPCPU and general parallel computing it will be years before we see another “breakthrough”.

    The puck is in “post pc devices” and that is where Apple is playing and I dare say leading. Now, when is Apple launching that “mediapad”?!

  • counterproductive

    @StrictNon-Conformist
    “Using a benchmark of anything but a final release product will give different, and usually slower, performance than a final release product, because there’s these things: 1, 2, 3…”

    How true. Thing is, it doesn’t really affect Daniel’s conclusions. From experience we know 2 or 3 other things in this regard:
    1) if anything, OS X is faster upon release than in beta
    2) if anything, Windows is slower upon release than in beta
    3) MS is deceptive in that they demo their OS’s on totally new, high-end hardware that has been set up and fully optimized for the demo only and not real world applications (see “Mohave” experiment discussions).
    4) Yes, you don’t know what you are going to end up getting performance-wise with Windows, because they will reserve some things for premium, ultimate versions or drop them altogether.
    5) With Windows, you have to choose 64-bit or 32-bit going in.
    6) New and old Macs alike tend to work better and faster on each new release of OS X. I have a Dual G4 PowerMac (about 7 years old), and a Dual G5 PowerMac (about 4 years old). Both on Leopard, both on 24/7, both being completely productive. You couldn’t pay me to take a new PC.

    XP has been compared to Tiger, and Vista to Leopard. Is it really that close? Given my experience, above, I would say they are at least 6 years behind, not 2. When professional (Mac) people can consistently choose (I often get second-hand Macs on E-bay with no problems whatsoever, and not one monent spent on tech support or trouble-shooting) to use six year old Macs over new PCs, there is something very wrong on the other side of the fence.

  • counterproductive

    @bartfat
    “Actually, there are ways for modifying OS X looks and feel, even for Leopard, it’s just that most people won’t bother ;)…”

    Yeah, I don’t know why people bother, I think they are compensating for something. I mean, I am a creative; but I don’t want to personalize my Mac desktop. Who’s got the time, anyway; we’re too busy being productive and enjoying using our Macs for all sorts of projects. Doing stuff that shows our creativity and individuality to others. We don’t need a break from computer frustrations, or need to put lipstick on a poor choice of tool. I don’t hang fuzzy dice in front of my screen (though I would if I had to use a PC).

    This is the irony, and it comes up all the time:
    “Apple is so big-brother, they don’t let you do anything.”
    I’m not whining, I feel empowered to put my imagination into my projects through great software and hardware. I feel that OS X is un-intrusive, just minimalistic enough yet attractive enough, and consistent, to let me enjoy my work, whatever it is. Yeah, Apple is so big-brother that they actually let me interact with all the technologies and standards and OpenSource projects and the full internet without interference.

    “But MS is all about Choice”. “You can buy any computer you want, you can customize it, you can skin your apps, you can do this, you can do that.” Too bad you can’t work with it ;)

    “Apple is closed and proprietary; MS works with everyone. Apple even has rules for apps ontheir iPhone.” Yeah, right. Why is it I get asked to open docs for PC users and save it in a format that other PC users can use; get asked to join a network so I can manipulate files for them, send stuff out, post stuff on the internet; get asked to do the presentations and communications because no-one can get the projector to work with their PC laptop; how come I get asked to redo all the docs going out of the organization because they look like crap and no-one can make a standard PDF” (the list goes on)?

    It boggles the mind. Oh, but everyone else can sit there and customize their desktop and play solitaire. Whoopee.

  • http://www.muir.tumblr.com John Muir

    @Counterproductive

    Welcome to the illusion of choice.

    If other hardware companies had their own operating systems – open source or proprietary or inbetween like Apple – there really would be choice. The huge distortion though is that they don’t. It’s an unbroken chain of Windows wherever you look, apart from a Linux fringe and of course the Mac.

    Buying an HP or a Toshiba or an Acer isn’t like choosing between products in other industries. Cars are a tired analogy, so I won’t retread that old ground, but you get the idea. Besides for hardware spec, there is no difference between brands of PCs. They are Windows boxes.

    Yet it somehow feels more like an open market to many people. An impression Microsoft is determined to maintain, as shown in every one of their adverts. Well, besides maybe the Seinfeld ones…

  • http://twitter.com/NateTehGreat nat

    @GwMac,

    Virtualbox and Wmware are certainly available for Windows along with several others. The beauty of my idea is that it would not cannibalize Mac sales.

    No, but it could damage Mac OS X’s pristine image. How? Well, a lot of people have junky computers. Running OS X in a virtual environment in and of itself will be a hit performance, then you have to consider how well these virtual environments perform on the already slow Vista (or the old XP) running on a Walmart box.

    If Apple could somehow account for all that, there’s still the major hang up of getting PC users to use Mac OS X in a virtual environment! Do the people who would be willing to go through the trouble of running OS X in a virtual environment need convincing? They’re probably already running a hackintosh. These aren’t the people Apple is trying to get. They represent a tiny minority. Apple wants the casual, somewhat affluent PC user who’s willing to pay more for quality. I think subsidizing the cost of MacBooks through the bundling of 3G WWAN antennas with service contracts from AT&T and/or Verizon, which could bring them down into the $500 range, would do a lot more for Apple’s market share.

    Windows 7 is not nearly as bad as Dan would like you to believe, I know because I have used it. Apple cares far more about margins and profits than expanding the user base which is fine. I just wish they could figure out a way to do both and I do not see that happening anytime soon. Windows 7 will be good enough to keep the billions of minions firmly in Redmond’s grasp.

    You seem to be under the (false) impression that Windows needs to be good in order to sell. In reality, Windows 7 will sell regardless because it will be tied to almost every PC sold outside of Macs and some netbooks running Linux (or Android).

    Unfortunately for Microsoft, the PC market has been flattening out for years and now it’s retracting. Netbooks and, up until the economic downturn, Apple’s premium Macs, represent the only real growth. Microsoft will never get Apple to become a Windows licensee, so that leaves netbooks where Windows XP is hurting margins and where Windows 7 Starter Edition won’t be able to run more than three applications at a time, which looks pretty bad compared to XP and Linux/Android. Add in the possibility of subsidized MacBooks running Snow Leopard (with slick MultiTouch trackpad displays) and the significance of Microsoft’s dominance on the PC desktop deteriorates.

  • kimsnarf

    Daniel, you’re arguing that price is the only apparent advantage of a Windows computer. I’d argue that price is just a side effect of consumer choice, which is the real advantage here. Yes, choice. Before I’m accused of being a “winbot” let me explain my reasoning.

    The words “Windows” and “choice” are historically not often uttered in the same sentence. Sure, Windows comes preinstalled on most PCs, but is Apple any different? Show me a Mac that does not come preinstalled with OS X. At least it’s possible to buy a PC without a prebundled OS, although still painfully rare.

    The choice I’m talking about, though, is not primarily about which operating system to use, since both PCs and Macs by now can run all major operating systems (well, except OS X which is Mac exclusive). Rather the choice lies with 1) hardware configurations and 2) software features.

    1) Hardware configurations.

    Apple only provides a handful of Mac configurations each revision. For the user who just wants something that works, this is not an issue. However, for the more tech savvy user with a specific need, this offering is far from satisfactory. If the user can’t be shoehorned into one of the predefined categories, the user is simply out of luck. Also, the offerings are skillfully designed so that some truly desirable feature is often reserved for the most expensive product. This forces the user to pay for a lot more just to get that single feature – a feature with could easily have been added to less expensive models at an additional fee (e.g. firewire, discrete GPU, faster CPU, multitouch trackpad). In the rare cases where Apple does allow the user to tweak the configuration it’s frequently at exorbitant prices (e.g. RAM and harddrives). Consumers are not “cheapskate” for looking after their own best interests rather than Apple’s. Also, most users are not rich and therefore not interested in paying a premium to go beyond good enough. Choice of hardware and lower priced alternatives is a good thing. Having more than one hardware manufacturer to choose from (Apple) is crucial.

    2) Software features.

    Apple creates user-friendly and gorgeous interfaces. They’re very good at identifying the most useful features and leaving the rest out. However, again, for the more tech savvy user this frequently means losing out on some important feature just because it’s not mainstream and Apple decided it was not worthy of their time. Add to this the fact that Apple’s main applications are locked down to prevent customizability, extensions and clones. You’re supposed to be using them the Apple way. Also, good alternative applications are rare due to Apple’s dominance and iron grip. Microsoft is certainly not as good at design and usability, but they’re good enough and they typically provide more functionality to cater to a larger and more diverse user base. This is not only important to end users but also to administrators who need full control over their installed software. They know best how to implement their company’s policies, not Apple. It should therefore be their choice, not Apple’s. Microsoft gives them that choice.

    Apple is historically no less of a monopolist than Microsoft. Today, I’d even argue they are worse. Remember, they control both hardware AND software. As long as Apple refuses to acknowledge that there are users and needs beyond their own limited vision of an ideal world, there will always be a huge market for alternative offerings. Apple caters only to a very specific group of users. The majority apparently does not identify with Apple’s vision of exclusive, elitist products of art that you’re not supposed to tamper with.

    Microsoft is no saint but neither is Apple. They could each learn quite a bit from the other.

  • Netudo

    Stormj:
    “Apple runs the risk of its own complacency on the desktop. I’ve run Snow Leopard betas, and I think it opens up a bunch of exciting frontiers in terms of harnessing hardware capability, but Mac OS X is over 10 years old at this point, and the refreshes aren’t making quantum leaps anymore.”

    I think Apple will never sin again of self complacency.
    Yes, OSX is almost 10 years old, and OSX Unix base is almos 30 years old now. This is not bad, on the contrary, well designed software ages like good wine. It keeps getting better and better. I think this is the case of OSX.

    I think Apple got into an evolutionary death end with MacOS 9. It was a good OS, but the design of MacOS 9 didn’t allow to implement the features they needed.

    Instead of writing a new OS from scratch and reinventing the wheel; Apple decided to use NeXT’s OS as a base for MacOSX. Over the years, they implemented many of the features they already had in MacOS 9.

    I remember hearing that Microsoft was bragging about rewriting the IP stack from scratch in Vista or Longhorn. Why would anybody want to rewrite from zero one of the OS components that is best known and tested?

  • Netudo

    BTW. I tested the new Windows 7 RC. It feels just like Vista. Sure, it has many new features that make life easer. But to the untrained eye it looks like Vista, so the first impression is “It ‘s Vista”, and that is not good.

  • counterproductive

    @kimsnarf
    I think you are buying into a lot of myths about the Mac. The same tired old stuff that the IT Drones in the article are forever trotting out.

    Who are these “tech savvy” users? The ones in MS’ laptop advertisements? or, the IT Drones themselves? The only Tech Savvy PC users I know, are the ones who play games all night long and do tech support for the masses by day.

    By contrast, almost every 9-yr old and 90-yr old who spends a bit of time on a Mac is suddenly, somehow, “tech savvy” to a degree that has got to be measurably above most PC users. How does that work out? How can computing experience be relatively painless to some informed users who have made a conscious choice to weigh up what they are really choosing for themselves? Where is the choice when everything is equally bad and unusable. That “illusion of choice” mentioned above rears its ugly head again right after John put it in its place.

    Anyway, what are you talking about, no software choice on a Mac? Have you looked on the Mac OS X softaware page accessible right from the Apple menu on every Mac desktop? Thousands of useful titles, hardly any from Apple. Loads of new stuff every day.

    And most Mac developers all write award-winning stuff (due in large part to Apple’s insistence on some continuity and consistency in UI guidelines developers should follow). I know, rules.

    Have you seen Delicious Library, and things like that. Sometime, pick up the MacHeist package of shareware. They just did a package of about 1000 dollars worth for 39 dollars. Incredible programs! I am now regularly using half a dozen of them in my creative, web design, content management, standards testing, video and media creation workflow.

    So, on LifeHacker you might get one Mac software recommendation against 4 or 5 PC ones. But what’s the point if in 30 minutes, your 9-yr old can put up a more favorable homemade interactive presentation and video DVD with interactive menu, against one that someone ends up paying a PC using company 500 dollars for simply because nobody could work out which of the inept 200-dollar programs to install, how to get it to play nice with their peripherals, and how to get a result that used some kind of standard media or file format and not an MS one, let alone a result that had any aesthetic quality at all or showed that the user knew what typography was or that graphics can be removed from their backgrounds, or what standards formats and industry standards are. Many still don’t know anything beyond .gif, .jpg, .doc and .avi exist. And wouldn’t be able to modernize their workflow with pdf etc. because MS intentionally makes it almost impossible.

    So, your tech savvy PC user is really just someone who is hanging on for dear-life to his hard-won experience at being able to get his computer just to function and do some basic things that every granny can do on her Mac. If that is complacency from Apple, so be it. Most of us call it a dedication to excellence.

    And, yes, there are good alternatives to old mainstays. Mac users even make great use of OpenSource — again, because Apple support and encourages open standards. Yet OpenSource is a hiss and a byword at MS, because MS and large PC developers who live on support contracts can’t compete. Things like Gimp will challenge even Adobe PS, which has become a little bloated in true MS fashion. Final Cut Pro of course challenges the old PC video powerhouse Avid at a fraction of the cost. Premiere is for amateurs. And just because every video card manufacturing company puts out some kind of editing software and bundles it with a camera or video card, it doesn’t mean that Mac users are looking for more choice. The first thing a Mac user does is throw the adware CD from a peripheral in the bin — because the three programs at his fingertips are 100 times better than the 10 or so a PC user might be able to come up with if he knows how to find them (read about the fiasco where Bill Gates himself couldn’t figure out how to download an MS video editing program because he had to wade through 10 pages of bureaucratic double-speak and install a bunch of utilities first, and STILL didn’t get what he needed). Then figure out how to get it to work; then try to get a half-way decent result. And then send the job out to a Mac house anyway, where they laugh all the way to the bank because they had their intern do the job on free software.

    So your tech savvy user is really someone who knows how to use Torrent, or how to beat his PC into submission so that he can get some project underway after wrestling with awkward installs, driver issues, format clashes, and how to persevere through poor usability issues. Most people don’t bother, nor should they need to.

  • counterproductive

    Sorry to double-post. I wanted to add: I find I am using far more software titles than I ever have. Simply because Mac developers are writing lots of truly innovative and compelling and attractive and useful programs that fit into great workflows. (eg. good shareware and OpenSource tools mentioned last post). I don’t have to worry too much about learning curves and being overwhelmed at having too many tools, simply because most are so intuitive and clever. Must be great guidelines and SDKs and tools from Apple. I wouldn’t know — I’m not a programmer. But I am impressed. And yet there is a lot of uniqueness and differing approaches among the available software.

    So, choice is an illusion, if the PC user is saying, “well, there ARE 100 programs I could use, I just have trouble finding one I like that I can use easily.” And a Mac user saying, “well, there are 40 available; 35 are pretty decent (I know because I checked them out when I had a few minutes last week); I might actually use 15 of them because these five would be great in these types of situations, these five work well in this workflow, and these five would be great for these other kinds of projects I often do; and I don’t mind the minimal learning curve of all 15 because, afterall, I like to remain ahead of the curve and like to be on top of what (that matters) is out there.

  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Neil Anderson

    Congrats, Daniel. Another great article. I bow to your knowledge and insight.

  • kimsnarf

    @counterproductive

    I’m not buying into anything. Am I not entitled to my own opinion just because I’m a PC user? Does that mean I can’t think for myself? That’s the worst kind of propaganda coming from the Apple camp. Don’t go there.

    1) You did not address my main concern with the Mac; lack of choice in hardware.

    2) Like I just mentioned, you’re assuming that PC users are “drones”. You’re buying into prejudice and hatred. Do you realize how many people actually use PCs in the world? Are you willing to stand up and declare all of them incompetent sheep? Many PC users (and Windows users) are quite able to put their computers to good use and actually work with their platform by choice, not by default. I know many people who enjoy developing on Microsoft tools and love the SDKs and documentation. Same with Linux. I know many power users, including myself, who has no problems finding plenty of useful applications (including open source) for all their needs in Windows. Again, same with Linux. I also know many non-technical PC users who have tried OS X, didn’t like it, and prefer to stay with Windows. I’ve tried to advocate OS X to them as an easier alternative but they found it weird, unpersonal and unintuitive, and I can’t blame them. Granted, my experiences can’t be applied to the world at large, but these people’s choices are not illusions. It’s a huge lie that PC users are clueless and it just fuels their resentment for the Mac platform.

    Your last sentence in post #70: “Most people don’t bother…”. So, in your world, most people use Macs? Judged by the statistics (regardless of interpretation) I guess your world is not the real world. ;)

  • Per

    Hey Windows Enthusiasts, I hear you finally get to choose between wireless networks directly in the taskbar. Enjoy!

  • counterproductive

    @kimsnarf
    I am not buying into hatred and prejudice. Most of my clients are PC users and I help a lot of non-profits with special projects, mostly pro-bono. I can usually do something for them quicker and cheaper and with less hassle.

    This is an online commenting forum, and I find the medium, ideal for hyperbole, embellishment, tongue-in-cheek debate, and downright venting (and it is obvious by most posts that most of us do). If you can’t take the heat…

    Of course, speaking with a neighbour, friend, colleague, relative or client is a completely different thing.

    “Most people don’t bother…”. Most people don’t/ can’t go through the hoops on the MS side to find the best tools to do the best job without undo hassle. On a Mac, you don’t have to go through nearly so much — as I said, a nine year-old in nine weeks will be as “tech-savvy” as a 49 nine-year old who has spent nine years gaining hard-won knowledge on a specific product with the attendant learning curve of each new version, each new peripheral and Windows OS, and all the hassle of keeping their computer functioning. I am in the real world, because Mac users have to use Windows from time to time. They have to help out colleagues, commiserate with them and say it doesn’t have to be this painful. We are there when friends and relatives and colleagues have to pick up the pieces and re-install their OS or reformat their harddrive or redo a project so that it can go out to a real-world printer with real-world typesetting and image and font preparation.

    If “tech-savvy” has any real-world measure in which people can:
    perform a variety of tasks beyond the specific one they are hired for; find answers and “produce results” simply, cheaply and professionally; feel confident in what they are doing and how it works below the surface; apply their knowledge and experience to another application or process because of consistency and intuitiveness; have a say in the management of their own system, strategy, workflow; evaluate what works and what doesn’t (and know what are real international standards and what are MS-imposed); think about work-flow concepts on the desktop that span an entire process on one machine; and becoming more an more efficient and productive in every area (not just faster at typing and macros) etc. etc…

    If there is anything to this (and it really isn’t a myth to say so), and if the phrase “tech savyy”: then yes, unfortunately the vast majority of PC users (because the vast majority of computer users use MS) are, not as tech savvy as they could be in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the effort.

    It’s not so much that all are sheep as that MS is guilty of ruthless monopoly, subterfuge, shilling, unethical conduct, holding back technology, etc. the list goes on. That is what Mac users get really upset about.

    Are you really willing to stand up and declare that this apparent choice — more software (such as it is), more hardware manufacturers (all PC boxes with not an ounce of difference between them as they race to the bottom of cost before quality), colours and effects on the desktop, etc. — really amount to REAL choice? And that quality, ease-of-use, value-for-money, TCO, lack of viruses, barely any support required, does far more out of the box, etc. means nothing? When the people who scream this the loudest have never tried a Mac but are extremely prejudiced for MS (a very unworthy company) to some incredible degree, and guilty of perpetuating myths about Macs without the merest trial? I don’t think you really mean that.

    I don’t doubt you are “productive”, I don’t doubt you can “get things done”; I don’t even doubt that there are millions of PC users being paid to do “something worthwhile” and even “necessary”. What we know is that it shouldn’t take the pain and hassle and expense that it does for less than the best results and a bunch of viruses and malware. What we know is that people are more productive and more happy when they have more satisfaction with their tools. You can say all day long how satisfied you are with your tools and with the vast array of “choices” available to you.

    What it comes down to is no choice; it comes down to complete dependence on the crap that MS calls a real OS with WOW. And the sooner that people figure out there are alternatives outside the iron-curtain hegemony of MS, the better for them and their industries.

  • duckie

    @kimsnarf

    “Apple is historically no less of a monopolist than Microsoft”

    SIGH – this total misconception of the meaning of the term ‘monopoly’ does you no credit sir. A monopoly can only be held in a market for a type of product or service where others may have been attempting to provide the same product or service. Apple can no more have a monopoly in Apple computers (which is what you are suggesting) than Heinz could have a monopoly in Heinz Tomato Ketchup. They could have one in tomato ketchup, but not THEIR OWN BRAND of it. Otherwise everybody who ever manufactures anything would be a monopolist. Think about it. Microsoft on the other hand does have a monopoly (as in a disproportionate market share) of the type of product or service known as a desktop computer operating system.

    In any case the issue with monopolies is not the holding of the postion, it is the abuse of that position in terms of unfair business practices and I shall not bore the assembled here with a list of Microsoft’s record in that department. And I suspect that you too, kimsnarf, are all too familiar with their crimes since you thought to mention the monopoly issue in the first place.

    By the way, I’m a PC user. But for some reason don’t feel the need to big up Microsoft, a company of extremely lax morals, just because I happen to use their product.

  • mailjohannes

    “The big problem is that Microsoft can’t speed up Windows 7 appreciably because it is Vista, and the reason Vista is so slow is not just because Microsoft didn’t have the time to worry about optimizing code in its 6 years of gestation …”

    I don’t think this is true. The claim is that Vista is slow due to its rendering engine. A speedy CPU and discrete GPU is needed to be able to use its glossy GUI layer.
    But, Leopard runs fine on my 1.5GHz Mac with embedded GPU.
    So, clearly it is possible to run a glossy GUI on a nowadays really slow computer.
    I think that Microsoft didn’t implement the GPU offloading of its desktop rightly with Vista. It took Apple 7 or 8 years to implement it correctly for Mac OS X. So it is no surprise to me that Microsoft didn’t pull this off in only one attempt.
    But this does leave a lot of room for improvements for Vista followups. It could even mean that Microsoft is successful in porting Vista+ to netbook pc’s and even phone sized computers with all its visual gloss.
    I know for sure Apple can do this, so it all depends on how fast Microsoft’s programmers acquire the techniques and experience Apple has now (and is rapidly acquiring with its iPhone platform).

    Another important difference for Windows 7 is that it will be released a few years later that Vista. This means that even if Windows 7 is as slow as Vista (which would really be a failure of Microsoft, as I have pointed out above), it will run on a lot more PC hardware, simply because the hardware is updated in the meantime.

    Remember Windows Millennium Edition? A complete failure for Microsoft, but the next version worked out fine.
    Microsoft has this experience already, so Vista, Windows 7 could be the same.

  • http://www.lowededwookie.com lowededwookie

    While I agree with your article I do feel that thinking the whole deal being only between mac and pc is a very narrow minded perspective. What you assign to Next had already been done by the Amiga in the mid-eighties to early-nineties namely graphics being performed by the GPU instead of the CPU. In many respects Apple is playing catchup to the 80’s.

    As for Windows 7 it’s alright but still miles behind XP let alone MacOS X.

  • adamk359

    I have read this article and I must say it is quite good…perhaps one of the best I’ve read in my short time on this site.

    I will say this much, that Windows XP is not bad. It’s got many problems, but it works fairly well…and that’s why a lot of people have held onto it with a deathgrip.

    Is XP bloatware? Yes. Is Vista bloatware? Immeasurably so. Is Windows 7? Just as much…which if it’s immeasurably so…then can’t be measured. I have installed the Windows 7 beta on two laptops…the very MacBook I am writing this on and an ancient (2002) HP Pavilion 5270ze. I installed 7 on my MacBook cause I was curious about the OS. I installed it on my HP to see if it even had a shot. Neither one has it anymore (though I might give the RC a try on my Mac to see if things have improved and MS listened to anyone testing the beta). The reasons? Mac: Not impressed at all. Though it was through virtualization as a Vista install under VirtualBox, but XP could boot up even faster than my Mac does (yeah I was shocked too) and I could be in and out in a split second if I only needed it for something quick. Win 7 took nearly twice as long to boot under virtualization than my Mac takes to boot into the desktop. This to me says that while Win 7 might boot faster than XP on actual hardware (rather than super-generic virtualized hardware), Win 7 is still loading a ton of crap. Bloat. HP: Win7 is supposed to slim the bloated code of Vista…it’s been touted to work on just about anything that runs XP…this is sadly not true. My HP has everything that a Netbook has…except that it has a 2.4GHz Pentium 4. Which, while old should still run circles around the fasted netbooks. If Win7 can’t do that on 512MB of RAM (even really old and slow RAM) and a 2.4GHz processor…what chance does it have on Netbooks? These computers are not computing powerhouses…they are not graphics powerhouses either…and neither is my old HP. This very HP runs XP as fast and as smoothly as my MacBook runs Leopard. This is why a lot of people stick with XP. It’s faster and less bloated.

    I have been a Windows user since the mid 90s, but was a Mac user since the mid-to-late 80s. I was sad to stop using Macs, but my dad was the one to get us started in Windows. It was cheaper and allowed us more cheaper options (like building your own box)…but was by no means better. Win95 was Mac OS7 without the bombs. It still froze and required even more reboots than Mac OS7 ever did…but eventually Win98 solved a lot of that stuff (and yes I used WinME as well and that was like going right back to Win95…how was that supposed to be better than 98?). I used 2000 for a short period of time, but that was about the time I started college and I could get XP and a bunch of Adobe software with good student discounts. I was well aware that going into my field of graphic design, I should be using a Mac (I’ll get to that later)…but it wasn’t the affordable option…even with student discounts. I already had a decent machine that would run Windows and XP wasn’t too bad with the discount. I even got most of my work done just fine in XP. I hazard to say that I get along ok with XP. Do I use XP anymore? Rarely. In fact I don’t even have it on VirtualBox anymore…simply because if I really need it that badly on my Mac, I can install it in 20 minutes and be using it seconds after.

    While at school, I realized very quickly, that a lot of my fellow classmates were getting Macs and touting that they were better…along with the “fact” that you couldn’t be a creative professional unless you had a Mac. Like I said, I got most of my work done on XP just fine. The actual reasons these people bought Macs was because they jumped on a bandwagon…a bandwagon of superficiality. They knew none of the actual reasons of why the Mac OS was better than Windows…other than it “just worked” and “looked cool”.

    Here is one problem that I see with a lot of people switching: They don’t like the attitude and they don’t want to adopt it. We shouldn’t go around acting like Macs are better without fully knowing why. Many of us do know why…but many more do not.

    I’ll start by using the Zune vs. iPod argument. A lot of people buy Zunes (or other similar products) because they don’t want to associate themselves with Apple products. I have a friend who is a diehard Apple-hater. She bought an iPod years ago and something went wrong with it and Apple put her through the rinse-cycle before they finally agreed to replace it (now Apple seems to be willing to replace stuff even outside of Applecare protection…but it all depends on what happened). She won’t go near Apple. Not even with a 100ft stick. Apple has changed a lot though (like I said, this was years ago). She doesn’t care. The damage is done.

    However, my girlfriend has a Zune…an original 30GB limited edition Pink Zune. It’s a nice device…actually…but synching anything to it is a pain in the ass. She has officially stopped using it since she doesn’t like the Zune software and the Zune Marketplace. She now has a 1GB iPod Shuffle…a giant leap backwards? In terms of hardware and storage? Yes. No question. In terms of ease of use and simplicity? Absolutely not. It serves her purposes well and she doesn’t have to carry around a massive pink rectangle that she can’t imagine loading with enough songs to max it out. She clips a tiny pink rectangle onto her shirt or jeans and away she goes. She loves music but she’ll never have enough to fill that Zune with. Plus iTunes (at least on the Mac) is insanely easy to use (bloated? yeah…a bit unorganized…sure…but easy to use and more importantly easy to synch). She loves her shuffle and she doesn’t care why it’s better. It just is.

    I, on the other hand have never really had an MP3 player. So when I finally went out and got my 8GB 2G iPod Touch…I bought a device that (aside from not having a radio tuner) is lightyears ahead of that old 30GB monster Zune. I can keep track of my life with the calendar, I can synch documents/files through WebDAV and use it as a simple document viewer/storage solution. I can put my portfolio on it when my MacBook is not handy through the photo viewer. I can run all sorts of really well made and interesting apps (and some not so nicely made interesting apps) on it and even view the web as anyone with a computer can (besides anything with Flash). I can even type emails on this thing almost as fast as I can type an email on my Mac. Oh yeah…and it plays music. Anyone that says that 8GB is not enough…then get the 16 or 32. Plus you can get a refurbished 16GB model for nearly the price of a brand new 8GB (which I am kicking myself now for not looking into, but I’m still thrilled with my purchase. I don’t have an extensive music library and most apps don’t ding the harddrive that badly…most are mere kilobytes. I love my iPod and I definitely know why its better.

    For what I do with it…it’s a far better deal than buying a Zune with more storage space…which as far as I understand…only plays music.

    Zune is failing cause MS doesn’t know how to combat iPod Touch sales (as well as other iPod models) that are still climbing. It’s apples to oranges…an iPod that plays music and does everything else vs. a dedicated MP3 player. How can MS compete?

    Vista is already a failure cause it was brought to market too late and its release was rushed (considering it was already way too late to the game). Windows 7 is as most people say, “what Vista should have been”…but it’s still Vista. It’s still bloated. It’s still slower than XP.

    To compare Vista/7 with the Zune is not very accurate. The two are failing on different levels. Zune = not innovative enough to matter. Vista/7 = Too slow and too bloated (even with code slimming) to keep Windows competitive with OS X…besides gaming. Windows 7 is touted as being the next greatest thing by the Windows elite and the OS that will stop the switchers…but sadly it’s a bunch of hackneyed, half-ass solutions being marketed as new technologies. OSX on the other hand really is using new technologies and Apple is taking their time developing them rather than rushing them to the stage. This is why MS is failing with Windows. They can’t keep up. They’re failing with the Zune cause they don’t know how to innovate. In theory, they could just make Windows Mobile OS to run on it…but Windows Mobile sucks. So there ya go.

    Sorry if none of this makes sense…I’ve been up since 4am…so my post may end up being a hackneyed, half-assed post a la Windows 7.

  • Netudo

    @adamk359
    “Zune is failing cause MS doesn’t know how to combat iPod Touch sales (as well as other iPod models) that are still climbing. It’s apples to oranges…an iPod that plays music and does everything else vs. a dedicated MP3 player. How can MS compete?”

    I disagree, Zune failed way before iPod Touch. It tried to compete against the iPod Classic (before it was Classic) I remember that the arguments used against the iPod were the social WiFi and the integrated FM receiver.

    I live in México and the Zune sold so poorly here, that I only got to see two Zunes (in use) in my whole life. In contrast iPods of all kinds and iPhones are very common.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @John Muir: “Anyone get the feeling that Windows 7 is 10.1 to Vista’s 10.0?”

    I think that’s a great analogy. For all the bad press that Vista gets (some of it justified, some of it not), let’s not forget that OS X 10.0 received a ton of bad press as well. Just like Vista, OS X broke compatibility with existing software, and it was SLOW. I remember reading articles where people advised against upgrading because it would make your current computer much more sluggish (hm, sound familiar?).

    The reason why 10.0 didn’t permanently tarnish OS X’s reputation, however, is that Apple followed it up very quickly with 10.1, which fixed all the major problems AND was free. And ever since, Apple has been updating/refining/enhancing OS X at a rapid pace – so quickly that developers actually asked them to slow down because they couldn’t keep up with the changes!

    Windows 7 is just like 10.1 – it fixes all of Vista’s major issues and (from what I hear) speeds things up. However, it’s coming out around 3 years after Vista (rather than what, 9 months or something between 10.0 and 10.1?) and it definitely won’t be free either. So, it’ll be interesting to see how people respond to it.

  • hmciv

    22% of Americans are inbred? Howwy Cwap!

  • adamk359

    @Netudo

    Of course it failed against the “classic” iPod, but they keep making Zunes anyway being the gluttons for punishment that they are. So long as they sit by and add nothing of any real interest or innovation, then they will continue to fail against the iPod touch which is seriously smearing Zune sales all over the place. Like I said, they can’t combat the rising numbers of people who are buying iPods…especially touches. So, what you say is correct…they failed against the classic iPod years ago, but now it’s the iPod touch that’s hammering in the final nail of it’s coffin.

  • adamk359

    One last thing…I typed this and the last post on my iPod touch…try doing that on a Zune. Also I gotta say the mobile version of this site is pretty slick, but there was a lot of downward “flicking” just to get to the bottom to post. ; )

  • John E

    well, bashing and snarking MS and Windows is a lot of fun. but fact remains that Win 7 will be a noticeably improved version of Vista, and thus will be greeted with a lot of positive public response, even if it just removes a lot of Vista’s UI annoyances.

    so what is really important this year is what Apple offers new in Snow Leopard, not what MS does. how really significant are SN’s new technologies for users? does it add noticeable speed to everyday use? does full Exchange support mean no one needs to buy MS Office anymore? will its MobileMe extension offer more practical “cloud” and remote functions? does it enable expanded integration with the iPhone (and the upcoming tablet)? is security improved?

    in recent years, despite the denial of Win users, Tiger was clearly more advanced than XP, and then Leopard was clearly more advanced than Vista. Apple needs to keep setting the standard, always pushing ahead while MS always plays catch-up.

  • Netudo

    @adamk359

    I thought they stopped making the Zune.
    I once saw a de-motivational poster with the legend: “Quitters never win, winners never quit, and those who never win and never quit, are idiots”.

  • SaneInSF

    It’s too bad that you tend to leaven your informative articles with crass and derisive comments that detract from it. “[Live] in sweats and drink most of their calories two liters at a time?”

    Inbred Americans?

    It’s too bad your arrogance continues to give us San Franciscans a bad name. I’m also laughing at you being such a Obama-apologist. He’s as about as articulate as a rock without a teleprompter. 57 states? Cinco de Cuatro? WTF?

    [While I can’t recommend reading the Chron, I’d suggest you stop reading the Examiner. Also, anyone who calls themselves “sane in SF” has no room to talk about arrogance. Fox news might be compiling a list of things Obama has said for you to get riled up about (the latest: his using Grey Poupon mustard, made by Kraft but it has a French sounding name!!!) but he’s not the figurehead moron that Bush was. Please – Dan ]