I bought a MacBook a week and a half ago and have been playing with it since with a view to making it my main work computer. Since we normally run Windows XP and Microsoft Office, this meant I needed to have some form of access to those Office applications. I already own a copy of Microsoft Office and have found that the Mac versions of the Office applications can be problematic in some cases, including the fact that Entourage is an imperfect substitute for Outlook, so I decided to go the route of adding a Windows OS to the MacBook instead. I read up about the two main virtualisation options - Fusion (from VMware) and Parallels, and eventually decided to go with Fusion, though by all accounts the two are pretty similar in terms of performance and functionality. I also purchased a copy of Vista Home Premium - I was going to have to buy some version of Windows anyway and I had been curious to try out Vista after all the criticism of it since its launch.
So I’ve now been running Windows Vista and Mac OS X Leopard side by side for a few days, and have a good way to compare the two. Vista’s performance has been impaired by the fact that I’ve been running it on a virtual machine instead of as a booting OS, so the “Aero” graphics features of Vista have been missing in action because Fusion doesn’t allow the Vista virtual machine full access to my graphics capabilities. In addition, I’ve had network connectivity issues and also a relatively recent problem with windows minimising and maximising at random while I’m working in them.These things aside, Vista hasn’t been that bad. The constant security nagging is easily my biggest beef (you click on an application or a component of Control Panel and are asked whether you want to continue, every time - didn’t I just say that’s what I wanted to do?), as well as being told periodically that I need permission (what permission? from whom? and how the heck do I get it?) to move a file from point A to point B on the hard drive, within the Windows environment.
These are serious flaws, and from what I can tell (see below) they’re not solvable, even outside the Fusion environment. There are some changes from XP and other previous editions in terms of naming (the word “My” is dropped from Documents, Videos, Music, Downloads etc.), structure (the Start Menu is now kept in place rather than expanding to the right as you drill down into the folder structure) and functionality (Vista has built-in Contacts, Calendar and Mail applications). So there’s the usual learning curve that you have with a new OS, but none of these things is either dramatically difficult to get to grips with or dramatically more useful than the old way of doing things. You get the sense that Microsoft has learned from Apple that new releases need new cool stuff, but they’ve tinkered at the edges with things that don’t really matter instead of really making the experience truly better.
The new Mac OS, on the other hand, feels like an incremental improvement, but a real one in certain ways, over Tiger. The search function is better, the whole Time Machine concept is a good one, although I don’t have a separate hard drive large enough to test it, the iLife applications are better than in the previous iteration, and overall it feels like the OS has moved forward in small but measurable ways. The whole option of running two operating systems on the same machine is, of course, a huge bonus too, and includes the built-in Boot Camp option of running either OS from bootup as well as the Fusion and Parallels paid-for virtualisation options.
Today, I installed Vista again, this time using Boot Camp. I had been frustrated with the limitations on Vista’s new features imposed by running it in the Fusion environment, but also by the nagging network connectivity and other problems I was experiencing. I now have the full functionality of Vista (Aero included) in the Boot Camp version, and will likely delete the original Fusion virtualisation and replace it with a virtualisation of the Boot Camp version (which will still be crippled but will work well enough for the most part when I don’t want to go Windows-only).
It’s been an interesting exercise in comparing and contrasting the Windows and Apple experiences. Apple really seems to have improved things, while Microsoft seems merely to have changed things, including in some cases for the worse, although mostly in an indifferent direction. However, the mere fact that I’m virtually forced still to use Windows and Microsoft applications because they are the standard at work is the biggest reason why Microsoft survives and thrives despite all this. It works well enough and, for now at least, it’s still dominant.