Smackdown: Windows 7 takes on Apple's Snow Leopard

Microsoft's new OS is the best Windows yet. Is that enough?

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In terms of pure interface, Microsoft has raised the bar for Windows users. Windows 7 is the best-looking OS out of Redmond, Wash., yet. But let's not confuse that with "innovation."

Many of these features aren't new at all, and many have been available on Mac OS X for years. While Windows 7 closes the gap with Snow Leopard, it does so only at a superficial level. At first, I was impressed with the interface changes and got caught up in the beauty of the Aero themes and sleek look. But after a few weeks of use, reality began to set in. After a Registry issue prevented me from installing an app, I realized Windows 7 is still Windows. Prettier, a little snappier than Vista, perhaps more stable. But at some point, you still face many of the underlying issues that have made Windows a pain to use in the past.

Microsoft's main enemies here aren't really Mac OS X or Linux. What Microsoft needs to worry about are the users and sysadmins who think the hardware and OS already on their desks works just fine. If you're still using XP after all these years, the slick interface and modest under-the-hood changes may not tempt you to spend money on Windows 7.

A friend of mine who works in IT for a major corporation explained it this way: The biggest problem Microsoft has is that after all these years, XP still works for many businesses. "What will force us to move [to Windows 7] is when Microsoft stops releasing security updates [for XP]," he told me. I believe that if Windows 7 appears to be solid right out of the gate, companies may move toward adoption quickly. XP is, after all, nearly a decade old.

If you're still using XP or are finally fed up with Vista, by all means check out Windows 7. It's certainly the best version of Windows yet -- just as it's equally true that Snow Leopard is the best version of Mac OS X. That's why you'd be well advised to check out Snow Leopard before shelling out money for Microsoft's latest.

As an IT professional, I support both operating systems at work. But I have Macs at home; after all, who wants to troubleshoot computer problems on their own time?

My final verdict in this smackdown? It's not even close: Snow Leopard is the better OS.

Michael deAgonia is an award-winning writer, computer consultant and technologist who has been using Macs and working on them professionally since 1993. His tech-support background includes tenures at Computerworld, colleges and Apple, and in the biopharmaceutical and graphics industries. He has also worked as a Macintosh administrator at several companies.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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