Archive for the ‘Vista’ Category

Enderle: Exposing a Fraud

November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Every now and then, I read an article from a few industry analysts / pundits for the shear sake of entertainment.  The work from Rob Enderle surely fits into that category.   Rob’s latest article, “It’s Dangerous to Assume People Are Stupid”, is just begging for a counter point.  This article will dissect Rob’s arguments and provide another point of view from someone who isn’t on Microsoft’s payroll.

 

Background

Rob describes himself as “the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.“   Of course, it should be noted that the Enderle Group consists of himself and his wife.  It should also be noted that Rob prominently sites Microsoft as a client.  It should also be noted that Microsoft has a history of astroturfing.  (paying bloggers to send a particular message).  Likewise, with all of this in perspective, it’s not hard to understand why Rob writes the rubbish that he does.  I don’t doubt there is financial incentive for him.  However, in the process, the name Rob Enderle, is synonymous with ignorant boob in every technical forum I’ve encountered.

 

Examples:

http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/28/0428236

http://www.informationweek.com/news/internet/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=196903015

http://digg.com/hardware/Microsoft_bribing_bloggers_with_free_high_spec_laptops

http://boycottnovell.com/2008/11/02/microsoft-dell-laptop-incenstives/

 

Back to the article…

 

The well-executed Mac vs. Windows  ads, while at least funny and entertaining, drifted from solid hits to outright hypocrisy as Vista was improved and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) seemed unable to remember its own advantages. (Hint: As a percentage, Apple’s ratio of marketing  dollars to development dollars leads the industry.)”

Yes, Apple has been poking a little fun at Microsoft with it’s “get a Mac” ad campaign.  Throughout the article, Enderle seems to almost take a personal offense to this ad campaign, but that’s another topic.   It’s also worth noting that Apple spreads it’s advertising across multiple product lines including the iPhone, iPod, etc.  It’s also worth noting that Microsoft just launched a highly public $300 million advertising campaign in an attempt to boost the company’s public perception.  

Let’s be honest here… yes, Apple has certainly capitalized off of the negative perception Vista has earned in the market place.  Did Apple create that perception?  No.  Is Apple responsible for poor Vista product reviews?  No.  Is Apple responsible for the relatively poor Vista user experience many have written about?  No.  Is Apple feeding the fire a little bit?  Yes.  

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)  just announced Windows 7, and as a pre-beta product, it is very impressive, largely because Apple’s negative campaign against Windows Vista focused Microsoft more than I’ve ever seen a complex company focused. There is a rule here in the Silicon Valley, and that is that focusing Microsoft on you generally ends badly — and Microsoft actually hasn’t been focused on Apple since the early 90s.”

Windows 7 may or may not be impressive.  I certainly don’t know one way or the other beyond what’s available on the internet.  I doubt Enderle does either.  I do know that any company can put on a technology demonstration that will impress a captive audience.  Apple does that at Macworld and WWDC events.  Why would anyone expect Microsoft’s demonstration of Windows 7 at PDC to not be impressive?  Of course, Enderle comments on an unfinished product don’t exactly carry much weight because:

  1. He’s not technical enough to even comment on products of this nature in anything but the most vague suggestions (more on that latter).  
  2. Enderle’s allegiance with Microsoft precludes him from offering any sort of unbiased opinion.

I’m not going to comment on the merits of Windows 7 just yet as I don’t feel qualified to at this point.  However, right now, the best thing Windows 7 has going for it is that it’s not Vista

I also find it funny that he attributes Microsoft’s “focus” to Apple’s “negative ad campaign”.  Honestly, I think that’s giving Apple’s influence too much credit.  Yes, Apple has gained some market share recently, but that’s as much to do with Apple’s success as it is with Microsoft’s failures.  I’d attribute any recent focus Microsoft is seeing to the basic realities that the enterprise market has largely refused to accept Vista “as is”.  To be fair, there may be several valid reasons for that and not all of them have to do with the quality of Vista.  However, I think Apple is the least of Microsoft’s concerns these days.  Regardless of whether Vista is lousy, great or somewhere in between, the Vista project would seem to have been mismanaged at Microsoft.  When you consider the years and billions of dollars that went into the development of the product, most would question what happened.  When you combine that with the multiple product delays along with the major feature cuts, it’s clear the Vista/Longhorn project was mismanaged. 

What I find even funnier is the implied threat Endrle speaks of.  What could Microsoft possibly do to Apple?  Make a better Windows product?  If that’s the case, then the majority of computer users should profusely thank Apple.  Microsoft could also pull MS Office for Apple, but again… so what.  This threat would have been a bigger deal 10 years ago when that actually meant something.  These days, with OpenOffice and even iWork and to some degree, even Google docs as competitors, this threat doesn’t mean so much.  Combine that with the fact that Microsoft dropped VBScript support for Office 2008 on the Mac and the competing products start to look good.  Very good indeed.  I think Apple knows this.  Further, Office 2008 seems to be very profitable for Microsoft, so I doubt this is even a consideration.

“However, Windows 7 attacks Apple’s historic inability to interoperate, successfully partner and work in the cloud — all of which suggest, if Microsoft executes, it will be the superior product. You can fix a product, but it is really hard to change the DNA of a company, and Apple has historically been its own worst enemy. This last is also true of Microsoft, and we’ll get to that in a moment.”

Enderle’s theory is that if Windows 7 works with “the cloud” better than Snow Leopard, Microsoft will therefore have a better product.  Huh?  Is that now the defining criteria for an entire operating system?  Since when?

Then next sentence is just ridiculous.  “You can fix a product, but it is really hard to change the DNA of a company”.  He claims that Apple is its own worst enemy then goes on to say the same about Microsoft.  Which begs the question…  What exactly is your point Rob?

This also integrates with Microsoft Silverlight advancements showcased at the Professional Developers Conference by the BBC, which will allow people to start watching a TV show or movie on their TV or PC, and finish watching it on a laptop or compliant smartphone, “

The last time I checked, anyone with iTunes (read: mostly everybody) installed can do the same… rent a movie, watch on their computer, TV (through Apple TV) or off on a portable device like the iPod or iPhone.  This is nothing new and you don’t need Silverlight to do it.  Isn’t it great to play catch up, then act is if this concept was something new?

Finally, Apple believes that only Apple should have the freedom to choose; customers have to accept Apple’s choice, it’s partially the result of Apple’s “lock in” policy, an historic problem for Microsoft as well.”

No Rob, Apple like any other company wants to control and profit from as much of the pie as they can.  If a company is sharing a bigger piece of the pie, it’s because they don’t have a choice.  As for vendor lock in, guess what Rob, if you’re discussing DRM based material, you’re going to have vendor lock in to some degree no matter what.  Is the vendor lock-in somehow better because you’re locked into a Microsoft solution as opposed to an Apple solution?  I think not.  Sorry, but Windows 7 will be no different on that respect.

One sustaining advantage that the Mac platform has is the ease in which Mac users can move from an old Mac to a new one. While migrating from Windows to a Mac is about as ugly as you can get, once on the Mac the process is comparatively painless. This is generally why Apple enjoys a higher customer churn rate than any other PC vendor, and it contributes to their higher margins and customer loyalty .”

Yes, moving from an old Mac to a new one is painless.  In fact, with Apple’s migration assistant, it’s completely painless.  However, migrating from Windows to a Mac generally isn’t difficult at all.  For starters, Apple makes it clear that they will do that for you at the genius bar at an Apple store if you’d like.  How difficult is that?  For most people, it’s as simple as migrating bookmarks, address books and some documents in the “My Documents” folder. That’s about it.  In the worst case, a user might do Boot Camp and dual boot or install a virtual Windows machine like Parallels or VMware’s Fusion product.  Again, in most cases that can easily bet setup for you in advance.  It’s not much more difficult than from moving from XP to Vista.

The Democratic Party and Microsoft have always been larger but less focused than their counterparts. For the Republicans or Apple to actually fix their competitors’ focus problems will likely be seen, in hindsight, as a really stupid thing to do.”

Seriously, it’s pretty lame to assign commercial companies to specific political parties.  Why bring politics into this discussion?   One could easily say Enderle is just making an analogy, but it seems to me that he’s trying to ride on the momentum of a particular political party and associates the faults of another party with Apple as a company.  

Apple would have been better off to fix its crappy laptop keyboards (seriously — compare a ThinkPad and MacBook keyboard) and figure out how to do touchscreens on PCs (multi-touch track pads are just lame compared to things like the iPhone and TouchSmart).”

I tend to prefer the more traditional keyboards as well, but not enough to make a big deal about it.  Really, if you don’t like something like a keyboard or a mouse, these are things that are very easily replaced.  The same isn’t true for an operating system (I can almost hear the Linux fanatics now taking issue with this one).  I’m guessing Enderle has never actually used a multi-touch trackpad on a recent Mac.  They are very cool and actually make laptops more efficient and ergonomic then most desktop PCs.  The scrolling text with two fingers is cool.  The zooming of text or pictures with a pinch is very nice.  Of course, Apple has done much more with 3 and 4 finger gestures, but this is clearly the future.  

By comparison, my prediction is that “TouchSmart” will go nowhere in any real practical sense.  Sure, it makes for a nice technology demonstration and possibly for a nice kiosk somewhere.  However, the ergonomics of constantly touching and reaching across a large screen is simply flawed.  If you doubt what I’m saying, imagine your computer has touch screen capabilities and try manipulating everything with your hands and see how long it takes before it becomes annoying.  Really, touch screens makes sense for something like an iPhone or a very small tablet like device.  For large screen computers, this will be nothing but cumbersome.  Clearly, Apple has been a couple years ahead with this type of technology.  If they thought it would be a must have feature, it would have already been shipped with Leopard much less the upcoming Snow Leopard.  For special applications, it might be nice.  For generally computing as we know it today, touch screen interfaces will be ergonomically inferior to mouse and trackpad gestures.  Remember, you heard it hear first!

Conclusion

Honestly, I can say that nothing Rob Enderle says is ever surprising.  I’ve never considered his articles as anything more than a shill for Microsoft’s marketing campaign.  Considering Microsoft’s established history of astroturfing and paying for comments in the media along with Enderle’s acknowledged professional relationship with Microsoft, I find it odd when people actually quote is comments or articles in order to somehow make a point.  If anything, quoting Rob Enderle to support your position works against you within the technical community.  Sadly, Enderle is often quoted in articles intended for the larger, non-technical community.  

Finally, I’m not aware of any “industry analyst” (and I use that term lightly) that has been wrong more often or even as a percentage than Rob Enderle.

 

A simple Google search turns up a few good examples of what others think of Rob.  For further reading (in no particular order), feel free to visit a few of the links below.  Enjoy!

http://essaysfromexodus.scripting.com/robEnderle

http://daringfireball.net/2003/12/enderle

http://hargreae.blogspot.com/2005/06/memorable-quote-by-rob-enderle.html

http://mywheel.net/blog/index.php/2007/11/03/rob-enderle-vs-paul-thurrott/

http://www.bynkii.com/archives/2006/06/rob_enderle_is_an_idiot_pt_xxl.html

http://diderotsdiary.iannelli.us/2007/12/rob-enderle-humiliates-himself-again.html

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13509_3-9947329-20.html

http://daringfireball.net/2007/06/iphone_high_water_mark

Leopard, Vista and Thurrott… oh my!

November 5, 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Apple’s most recent operating system, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, was released last week and overall, the reviews have been very positive. Not surprisingly, Apple recorded record sales during the product’s first weekend on sale. Leopard sales have far outpaced Apple’s initial sales for Tiger (10.4) when it was released. This stands in strong contract to the reception Microsoft received with its Vista debut. While I happen to think Vista is a fine operating system and largely a big improvement over XP, the migration to Vista has been painful for many. I’ve been shocked to see such a demand from consumers to downgrade back to XP.

With that in mind, it’s kind of funny to read a Leopard review from an extremely biased Windows “journalist”. I’ve tagged this under “journalist hack”, but I may start a new tag called “comedy” to cover items like this. While I realize nobody really takes Paul Thurrott’s articles seriously, feel free to continue reading my rebuttal just for fun.

For the record, I should probably state my position of Leopard right up front. I see Leopard as a nice evolutionary upgrade for the Mac platform. I wouldn’t say the new features in Leopard are particularly innovative in function. Apple has done a good job of taking existing concepts and implementing them in a very user friendly way. While enhancing the user interface to existing concepts is a form of innovation, it’s not the same level of innovation that Apple is known for. Much of what Apple has done with Leopard has been done before in other operating systems. Thurrott tries to attribute much of Apple’s work to previous works from Microsoft. In doing so, he makes himself look foolish as his comparisons are often a bit of a stretch. I’m not sure whether Thurrott really isn’t aware of where various technologies have originated from or whether he chooses to omit such information in order to give his explanation more credibility.

Apple Mac OS X 10.5 ‘Leopard’ Review
Paul Thurrott

http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/macosx_leopard.asp

“While the Apple hype machine and its fanatical followers would have you believe that Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” is a major upgrade to the company’s venerable operating system, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, Leopard is yet another evolutionary upgrade in a long line of evolutionary OS X upgrades, all of which date back to the original OS X release in 2001.”

I suppose this is where the comedy begins. A common argument I hear from Windows zealots seems to be that each OS X upgrade is minor, sort of like a “service pack” release for Windows. The basis for this argument comes solely from the naming convention. The fact that each release has had what seems like a point release (10.0, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5) naming convention seems to be more than Thurrott can handle. In all fairness, the 10.1 “Puma” release really was just that, a point release to fix stability issues and add very minor features to the not yet ready for prime time 10.0 “Cheetah” release. However, each subsequent release since then has been very substantial and worthy of the “major release” designation.

Apple highlights some of the more significant user level features on their web page. They even have a site which makes a list of 300 new features. Granted, all of the new features aren’t earth shattering and many are enhancements to existing features, etc. Still, not everything is listed. For most of what’s new in an operating system, you’d have to be a developer to appreciate. For those who actually want a taste of what Apple has really done with the kernel, systems services, etc. you can start by reading the John Siracusa’s excellent review at Ars Technica.

Anyway, back to the Thurrott’s review… The funny thing is, Thurrott is in a tough position. Leopard is considered by most to be the leading operating system in terms of technology and features. Clearly there is not a true one to one comparison with Vista. Vista excels at some things and Leopard excels at others. Still, Leopard is the real deal and Thurrott is fully aware of it. So, on one hand, Thurrott wants to belittle the accomplishment Apple makes with each release. On the other hand, you have to acknowledge the product Leopard is in your review. The only way to do that is to claim the original Mac OS X 10.0 release was better than it is. That’s pretty much how Thurrott back pedals in his next paragraph. He doesn’t mention the 10.0 release by name, but since everything since then has been a “service pack” like update, what he’s implying is clear enough.

“But let me get one huge misunderstanding out of the way immediately: That’s not a dig at Leopard at all. Indeed, if anything, Apple is in an enviable position: OS X is so solid, so secure, and so functionally excellent that it must be getting difficult figuring out how to massage another $129 out even the most ardent fans. Folks, Leopard is good stuff. But then that’s been true of Mac OS X for quite a while now.”

Thurrott tries to draw parallels between Vista and Leopard and the development process between Microsoft and Apple, but he just doesn’t fly.

“Both Leopard and Vista were horribly late, Vista even more so than Leopard.”

Really? Vista/Longhorn was supposed to ship in 2003, but actually shipped (to consumers) in 2007. That’s 4 years late and it was missing most of the interesting features that were originally promised. Leopard was supposed to ship in “first half” of 2007, but actually shipped in October of 2007. That’s 4 months late and feature complete. BIG difference Paul!

New Features

For some reason, Thurrott goes on a tirade about the definition of “new features”.

“…the feature must actually be new (i.e. have not appeared in any form in a previous version of the product) and must actually be something that impacts end users in a practical way.”

According to Thurrott’s definition, hardly any software products can list “new” features. That is, (using Thurrott’s own example), it doesn’t matter what “enhancements” Apple has made to its DVD player for example because it already had a DVD player. Likewise, new capabilities of this or any similar application don’t count as “features” for some reason. I wonder if Thurrott applies this same logic to his Microsoft Vista or Office reviews?

Time Machine

“New to Leopard, Time Machine is Apple’s version of Microsoft’s Previous Versions feature, which first appeared in Windows Server 2003 over four years ago.”

As expected, Thurrott loosely tries to compare Apple’s Time Machine feature with something Microsoft has. The problem is, what is he comparing it to? Backing up files? Apple has had a “backup” application for years that came standard with .Mac subscriptions. Backing up files is nothing new for Apple either. Perhaps he means snapshots? Again, this concept has been around in the Unix world for ages, certainly long before Microsoft even considered adding such a feature. This alone makes me wonder why he is trying to pretend Apple is copying Microsoft here. It gets better though.

“What makes Time Machine truly interesting is that it works with certain applications in addition to files and that’s something Apple should stress more in its discussions about this feature.”

Again, this begs the question, which Microsoft product does what Time Machine does here?

“Unfortunately, the company mucked up Time Machine with a truly juvenile user interface, one that is horribly out of place in its otherwise staid and professional looking OS X.”

I suppose user interface is a subjective thing. However, it’s worth noting that this is the one and only review I’ve seen which doesn’t praise the Time Machine interface. Apple has put a practical and user friendly interface on what has traditionally been a tool reserved for geeks. It would seem that Thurrott stands alone on this one.

“Apple also blows it by requiring a second hard drive: This makes Time Machine less useful for mobile users, which Apple says represent over 50 percent of its sales. Way to ignore your own trends, Apple.”

Again, comments like this are why I enjoy reading Thurrott’s posts. Comic relief is a great way to reduce stress in the work day. Basically, Thurrott is advocating the practice of storing your backups on the same volume as your original data. That’s all well and good until you actually need to restore your data after a disaster occurs. What do you do when your hard drive crashes Paul? You’ve just lost your original data and your backup data. Brilliant! Please Paul, don’t apply for an IT job. Any laptop user that doesn’t backup to another physical device such as an external hard drive or some other network storage is just asking for trouble.

Spaces

Thurrott doesn’t say much about Leopard’s Spaces feature other than acknowledge that it came from the UNIX environment. True enough, though some of the ideas go back as far as Xerox Parc, the concepts of virtual desktops are really nothing new. Most of the work was pioneered by the X Window system. Microsoft has dabbled with this concept before by making this feature a “PowerToy” add on to Windows XP, but the implementation was absolutely horrible. Basic features like moving a window to another desktop, etc. were not implemented.

This is definitely a feature for power users and Apple seems to have done a good job here. There is nothing innovative about what Apple has done with this, but it is a first class implementation of an existing concept.

User experience

“After years of deemphasizing unnecessary translucency effects in Mac OS X, Apple takes a big step back in Leopard. Now, not only are menus more translucent than ever in Leopard, but so is the system-wide menu bar at the top of the screen, meaning that it will rarely be solid white as it’s been in all Mac OS releases since the original version in 1984. The effect is ugly, and I wish you could at least turn it off.”

Every dog has his day and even Thurrott gets to be right once in a while. Fortunately, this “feature” can be turned off, but it involves something beyond a simple control panel setting.

“Apple’s file manager application, the Finder, has always been adequate, but this time around it’s been upgraded with a number of Vista-like features, including a new look and feel (based, go figure, on iTunes) and a semi-customizable sidebar. This, I like quite a bit.”

This is another one of those situations where you just have to laugh. Thurrott claims the Mac “Finder” has been upgraded with “Vista-like” features, which in turn he credits as being based on iTunes. Really, why bring Vista into this? Clearly the iTunes product and interface have existed long before Vista. Isn’t it possible that Apple is just standardizing the interfaces of its own products? Thurrott is clearly implying Apple is copying Microsoft in some way. Yet, he goes on to acknowledge that both Leopard and Vista are copying Apple’s own iTunes. Funny. He goes on to draw other similarities between Leopard and Vista, but again, most of these conventions already exist in Apple’s iTunes.

Smart Folders

“Search For, as you might expect, is OS X’s answer to Vista’s Searches folder. Here, you’ll see links to prebuilt searches such as Today, Yesterday, Last Week, and links for searching for images or documents. And as like Vista, you can create your own saved searches. These will automatically show up in the Search For list in the Finder when saved.”

Again, Thurrott seems to be hoping that his reading audience is limited to Windows users that have never seen or heard of other operating systems. Here, Thurrott is referring to Apple’s “Smart Folders” feature. Smart Folders are also known as Virtual Folders. They are basically saved search criteria. When you access one of these folders, they use the saved search criteria and use the systems search engine to provide dynamic results. Apple has made extensive use of this feature in products like iTunes, iPhoto, Mail, etc. for years. Microsoft first used this feature in Outlook, but this use is predated by iTunes by several years. Even still, the feature really originated with the Be operating system (BeOS). So, again, this concept is nothing new. Apple hasn’t done anything innovative here but they certainly didn’t steal this from Microsoft as Thurrott seems to imply.

Quick Look

“In another nod towards reducing steps and thus increasing efficiency, Leopard includes a new feature called Quick Look, which lets you view the contents of most document types without opening them in the application that created them. This feature, apparently modeled after the preview feature in Windows Desktop Search, augments Leopard’s Finder-based icon views which, like those in Vista, use thumbnails to reflect the contents of documents.”

At this point, one has to question whether he’s insane or not. Many programs save icons that reflect the content and have for years. For example, this is typical for graphics programs when saving JPEG files, etc. Comparing Leopard’s Quick Look to Vista’s preview feature is either disingenuous or naïve (or possibly both). Quick Look is way beyond Vista’s preview. Quick Look allows you to view entire documents, page by page for example without opening the application. It’s instantaneous in performance and elegant in design. It’s a real break through for searching content. It should also be noted that Mac OS X (since the beginning) has always had the ability to preview photos, movies, audio, etc. in a method beyond what Vista’s preview does. This feature works in conjunction with Apple’s Cover Flow viewing mode. Since this is another feature which has no counterpart in Vista, Thurrott makes up some nonsense about performance issues. I’m not sure what machine he’s using and if he’s looking in folders with 10,000+ files or something. From my experience, I haven’t witnessed a performance issue with this feature.

Spotlight

“When Apple copied Microsoft’s instant search feature to create Spotlight, it only got it partially right, so the Leopard version addresses some of the missing features from Tiger.”

Predictably, Thurrott paints Apple as the one copying Microsoft. Really? That’s a bold claim to make and it should be noted that he offers nothing to back this up. Apple shipped a comprehensive desktop search solution, Spotlight, in the 10.4 (Tiger) release. Tiger shipped in April, 2005. Microsoft shipped a comprehensive desktop search solution, WDS, in the Vista release. Vista shipped in January, 2007 (let’s not split hairs about the fall 2006 release to select “business” users). So, that begs the question: How did Apple copy Microsoft?

Apple first introduced Spotlight in June, 2004 at the annual WWDC (world wide developer conference) as part of an early demonstration of their upcoming Tiger release. Not coincidentally, Microsoft quickly went out and purchased a search engine start up company, Lookout, in July, 2004. This acquisition later went on to be released in beta as the “MSN Desktop Search”. In version 2, it was later renamed to Windows Desktop Search. Yet, we’re supposed to believe Apple is copying Microsoft? Not according to the timeline!

In case anyone is wondering, Microsoft’s indexing services (which Apple also had back in the “classic” Mac days) is not the same thing. Some may note that Microsoft was working on the now defunct WinFS for years. But I see no point in discussing products than never shipped. We could just as easily discuss Apple’s previous efforts with the V-Twin search engine developed for Copland, etc. Also, if Microsoft’s home grown search technology were really mature enough, they wouldn’t have had to go out and purchase another company just to acquire a competing solution.

In any case, it’s not like either company came up with the idea. The BeOS was years ahead of it’s time technology wise. The BeOS Tracker had what is considered to be the best desktop search integration even today.

Anyway, Thurrott goes on to try to make Spotlight look bad by making false claims. For example:

“Spotlight now supports Boolean operators like AND, OR, and NOT, which should be familiar to database gurus and Google fans. As with Vista’s Start Menu search feature, you can now use Spotlight to quickly find and launch applications.”

While it is true that there were limitations on what you could do from the Spotlight search window in Tiger, Thurrott is absolutely incorrect on both counts here. For example, searching from a Finder window allowed for more extensive search criteria. Further, command line utilities such as mdfind, mdls, mdutil, etc. allowed for extensive Boolean based searches and other flexibility not found in other search engines. Additionally, you most certainly could launch programs from the Spotlight search window, though I do agree that this feature was better implemented in both Vista and Leopard.

Finally, Thurrott makes it sound like Apple is just catching up here. That’s not the case. Where is Vista’s (WDS) ability to search over networks like Leopard can?

Web Browsing

“Apple’s lackluster Safari Web browser is updated to version 3 in Leopard and it features some improvements that will be familiar to user of Firefox.”

This is the sort of comment that demonstrates Thurrott’s extreme anti-Apple bias. Since when is Safari considered to be a “lackluster” web browser? I certainly agree that Firefox is a great web browser, I use it fairly often. Prior to Safari 3, it did have the best search feature for example. I find it odd that he doesn’t even mention IE 7. If anything, IE has been considered lackluster for only just now getting tabbed windows, not to mention its poor support for WC3 standards. On the other hand, Safari has been proven to be the fastest browser and the first to successfully complete the ACID2 test. That doesn’t sound like a “lackluster” browser to me. I’d say the biggest legitimate knock against Safari is market share. In practice, web developers are forced to make sure their web pages can be viewed by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, even if they have to abandon internet standards or dumb down their code in the process.

Miscellaneous

“It’s not like OS X, which has had no real world viruses or malware attacks over the year, has gotten any more secure in a realistic sense.”

I’m not even sure what that means. Basically, Leopard does make security improvements. In some cases such as “Library Randomization” it is playing catch up to Vista and other more secure operating systems (OpenBSD, etc.). That said, Apple apparently doesn’t get credit for this because it was already “secure enough”? Granted, Vista was a huge improvement over XP in terms of security. The vast majority of security features have always been present in OS X. This explains why malware attempts have largely been unsuccessful with OS X and now similarly with Vista. Windows zealots used to claim that OS X was safe due to security through obscurity. Of course, now that Vista has adopted much of what OS X has already done, some are beginning to recognize the OS X’s security model was in fact very good.

“If Apple is seriously about slowing that growth, it needs to offer an OS that is obviously better than Vista. Leopard is not that system.”

Thurrott is a bit naïve if he thinks operating system market share is that simple. Tiger seriously outclassed XP, but Windows users didn’t switch in droves (some did though). Switching platforms is extremely costly, especially for the business world where most of Microsoft’s sales come from anyway. History has proven that the best operating system in terms of features and technology is not enough. Does anyone remember DR-DOS? OS/2? etc. ?

“Make no mistake: Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” is the real deal, a mature and capable operating system and a worthy competitor to Windows Vista. But then, so was Tiger, Leopard’s predecessor.”

Agreed. Microsoft Vista brought rough parity with Apple’s Tiger (10.4) operating system. In some ways it was a little better and some ways not quite as good, but overall, it certainly bridged the huge gap between XP and Tiger. Leopard is not revolutionary in any way, but it is a nice evolutionary upgrade over Tiger and overall most would agree it’s a better choice over Vista. That opinion is certainly shared amongst the more respected press.

“Another problem with Leopard is the unmet expectations. Apple, like Microsoft with Windows Vista, promised more than it delivered with Leopard, and even went so far as to promise secret new features that never materialized.”

I think there is a big difference here. Microsoft made a big deal about the different pillars of “Longhorn”. Major, specific features were promised such as WinFS, Palladium, etc. but not delivered. Apple on the other hand never promised anything specific. Rather, when Leopard was first demoed more than a year ago at the WWDC, they mentioned other “secret features” in a sort of tongue and cheek type of way. Surely, anything like the support for Sun’s ZFS, etc. could qualify for that. To compare Microsoft’s broken promises to Apple’s is just absurd.

“Leopard is also incomplete. If you purchase this product on October 26, you’ll be getting pre-release quality software that Apple will update early and often, as they’ve done so often in the past with virtually all of its software products in the past several years. While your garden-variety Mac zealot may bristle at this suggestion, people who actually beta tested Leopard know what I’m talking about. It will get better over time. It always does.”

By Thurrott’s definition, Vista must also be incomplete. Are there no service packs coming for Vista? Really, Thurrott’s sense of logic is certainly twisted. No operating system or software product of that scope will be released without the “service pack” type of updates.

“Leopard was Apple’s chance to once again leapfrog Windows, and given the five years of delays Microsoft put us through, it should have been a slam-dunk. That Apple was only able to come up with something that’s roughly as good as Vista is both surprising and telling, I think. Leopard just isn’t better than Vista. And it should be.”

Again, this is another example of more ridiculous commentary from Thurrott. Yes, Leopard was an opportunity to leapfrog Vista. While I’d stop short of saying Leopard leapfrogged Vista, it generally did shoot past it. To suggest that leapfrogging Vista should be a slam dunk is to suggest that Vista is crap and easy to leapfrog. That’s just not the case. Also, why is Thurrott surprised that Apple is the only real competitor left? Operating system development is a huge effort and requires support from third parties. Linux is fundamentally sound. From a kernel level technology, it’s better than Windows. Linux just needs to standardize on the front end and get better third party support. It also needs to get a user base that is accustomed to paying for software.

Conclusion

I’m not sure a Paul Thurrott article really warrants a formal rebuttal. In fact, I’m quite sure it doesn’t. Nobody is perfect and everyone (including me) makes mistakes. However, there are few examples of people who are more consistently wrong than Thurrott. Rob Enderle comes to mind, but that’s another story. Since Microsoft is a client of Enderle, at least it’s clear where his bias comes from.

I’ve seen various forum debates where even the most die hard Windows zealot won’t cite Thurrott as a source of information because they know that would only hurt their position in an argument. Still, I have to admit, I do enjoy reading his articles once in a while. Every once in a while, I might even indulge myself in a rebuttal!

In any case, Vista is a fine operating system and in my opinion is somewhere between Apple’s Tiger and Leopard releases in terms of features overall. I’d agree that it’s roughly on par with both, but from my experience, I’d say Apple is in a better position with Leopard.

The real challenge will be to see where both companies go from here. If Microsoft goes another 5 – 6 years before it’s next major OS release, they will certainly fall behind Apple, much like XP was well behind Tiger.

While the Vista product is good, Microsoft can’t be proud of Vista as a project. It took nearly 6 years and cost more than 6 billion dollars and finally shipped without many of the promised features. That was a disgrace and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Jim Allchin has moved on. Microsoft has replaced Allchin with Steve Sinofsky. I have no doubt he’ll do a better job on delivering on promised features and promised dates.

It’s not like Apple hasn’t suffered through this as well. Remember the Copland project? Of course, all of that was before Steve Jobs (and company) returned to Apple. Since then, Apple has been very predictable and reliable with regard to delivering on its promises. Perhaps Apple was a bit stretched recently with its focus on the iPhone product. However, a 4 month delay for a software product of this scope is certainly reasonable. Unlike Thurrott, I would not put Leopard in the same category as Vista from that respect. Still, the pressure will be on Apple to continue to enhance the Mac OS X operating system with regular updates. Only time will tell who will deliver what next… I’m looking forward to the next releases from Microsoft and Apple already!

Leopard vs. Vista: An uphill marketing battle for Apple.

June 14, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Recent articles in the press illustrate the uphill battle Apple faces trying to convince Windows users to switch to the Mac platform. This article isn’t meant to make any definitive comparisons between the two operating systems. Rather, this article addresses some of the perceptions illustrated in the media that are based on incorrect information.

With roughly 5% market share (slightly less worldwide), Apple continues to face the difficult task of differentiating it’s product from the Microsoft Windows based PC platform. This task is compounded by ignorant journalism which only serves to propagate incorrect myths, etc. I don’t mean to single out specific journalists on this issue. However, it’s difficult to illustrate this point without proper examples. The article below is an example of what I’m referring to. I’ll take a look at the article on a point by point basis.

Leopard looks like … Vista
By Mary Jo Foley
June 11, 2007

Foley apparently attended Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 11, 2007 and came away thinking that Apple’s most recent operating system release in development, OS X 10.5 Leopard (due in October, 2007) looked a lot like Microsoft’s Vista.

Now, by her own admission, she’s not a Mac users and likewise not familiar with the Mac OS. If you’re comparing these products at a VERY high level (presumably from outer space) and only looking at a small subset of features, then it’s understandable how one could come to that conclusion. However, she also describes herself as a technology journalist that has covered the industry for more than 20 years. Already I have an issue with this. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t write about something, expect to be excused for your mistakes due to the lack of familiarity with the subject matter, and yet expect to be taken seriously due to your credentials. Which is it?

During the Apple keynote presentation, Steve Jobs demonstrated 10 out of 300 features of Leopard. This was not a comprehensive tour of the operating system, nor was it a complete demonstration of new features and enhancements.

“Here’s what Jobs’ hit list looked like to this Windows user:
1. New Leopard Desktop: Not a whole lot different from Vista’s Aero and Sidebar.”

What does that even mean, “not a whole lot different”? Does that mean it looks similar? Does that mean it functions in a similar way? Well, yes, they both use a desktop metaphor with icons, use a mouse for a pointer, etc. Yet, they are also different. With the desktop, Apple only talked about changes to the “Dock” and the introduction of “Stacks”. Vista has a dock, but it functions in a very different way. Vista “kind of, sort of, maybe” has something like stacks. It’s more like something Apple invented and patented years ago called “piles” than it is like Apple’s recent “Stacks” implementation. Again, I’m not discussing which is better as that is beyond the intended scope of this article. But, it’s safe to say they are significantly different in implementation.

“2. New Finder: Many of the same capabilities as the integrated “Instant Search” in Vista (the subsystem that Google is trying to get the Department of Justice to rule as being anti-competitive). The new Leopard Coverflow viewing capability looked almost identical to Vista’s Flip 3D to me.”

Huh? Desktop search (or “instant search” as she calls it) existed in Tiger which shipped several years ago. Wouldn’t that mean Vista looks like Tiger?

Then she goes on to compare Leopard’s Coverflow feature to Vista’s Flip 3D. This comparison is done out of pure ignorance. These are not even competing features. Coverflow is a graphical way to preview documents in a folder for which there is no equivalent feature in Vista. Flip 3D is a graphical means of switching between open windows in Vista. At best, you might functionally try to compare Vista’s Flip 3D with the Expose` feature which debuted in the Panther release of OS X. It’s clear that Foley doesn’t even understand what she’s comparing at a functional level.

“3. QuickLook: Live file previews — just like the thumbnail preview capability available in Vista.”

Again, she doesn’t understand what she’s talking about. She’s referring to Vista’s “Live Icon” feature. For starters, this isn’t available in all versions of Vista. Second, at best, it’s comparable the preview mode found in the Mac Finder when browsing in column view. Quick Look is significantly different and clearly a step forward. It allows you to see a full size preview of the document very quickly without opening the application. It also allows you to view the entire document, page by page, etc. Simlarly, you could play a movie in this mode or even go full screen with a simple double-click. Which Vista feature would she be referring to here?

“4. 64-bitness: Leopard is the first 64-bit only version of a desktop client. Vista comes in 32-bit and 64-bit varieties. And most expect Windows Seven will still be available in 32-bit flavors. Until 32-bit machines go away, it seems like a good idea to offer 32-bit operating systems.”

Once again, Foley doesn’t understand what she’s talking about. Leopard offers both 32bit and 64bit compatibility in the same release. That is, in Leopard you can have a 32bit program running along side a 64bit program in the same OS. You can’t do that in Vista. Most programs would not benefit from 64bit address spaces yet. This is why virtually nobody uses 64bit on the Windows side. Apple has made it possible for a smooth transition. Microsoft has not. Somehow Foley is trying to make a case for Microsoft’s approach, but since it’s clear she doesn’t understand the implementation of each, her point is not very convincing. Still, I give her credit for consistency.

“5. Core animation: Not sure what the Vista comparison is here. The demo reminded me of Microsoft Max photo-sharing application. The WWDC developers attending the Jobs keynote didn’t seem wowed with this functionality.”

It’s fair for a non-technical person to not understand what Core animation is. It’s also fair for a non-technical person to not know if Vista has an equivalent (especially when it doesn’t). However, to somehow dismiss this feature because the people she sat next to her weren’t blown away is ridiculous. This is especially true since the very same people were first introduced to this feature nearly a year ago. As for the feature itself, it doesn’t allow you to do something that was impossible before. It just makes animations easier and likewise much more practical within applications.

“6. Boot Camp. You can run Vista on your Mac. Apple showed Vista running Solitaire in its WWDC demo. But I bet those downloading the 2.5 million copies of Boot Camp available since last year are running a lot of other Windows business apps and games.”

What’s her point here? Many features of Leopard were previewed before. Boot Camp has been available in beta for in Tiger for a long time. Does Vista offer similar functionality (being able to boot into Mac OS from a generic PC)? No? Then, what’s her point?

“7. Spaces: A feature allowing users to group applications into separate spaces. I haven’t seen anything like in in Vista, but the audience didn’t seem overly impressed by it.”

Once again, Leopard has another feature (Spaces) that has no equivalent in Vista. Once again, rather than acknowledge that features like this make the premise of her article moot, she attempts to deflect attention to the crowd’s reaction. Once again, this feature was demoed nearly a year ago to the same audience. What type of reaction was she expecting?

“8. Dashboard with widgets. Isn’t this like the Vista Sidebar with gadgets?”

Sigh… Yes, Dashboard and Widgets are very much like Vista’s Sidebar and Gadgets. The problem is… Foley doesn’t acknowledge that this feature has been in the Mac OS for years now (since the Tiger release). If anything, it just demonstrates how Microsoft has been copying Apple’s lead. The concept dates back to Apple’s desk accessories in the original Mac OS.

The new feature in Leopard was the ability to highlight any part of a web page and create your own widget. Vista, like Tiger, does not have this feature. This is what was demonstrated, not the concept of Widgets/Gadgets. Unfortunately, Foley doesn’t have a frame of reference here to even know which features are new enhancements and which features are entirely new concepts.

“9. iChat gets a bunch of fun add-ons (photo-booth effects, backrops, etc.) to make it a more fully-featured videoconferencing product. The “iChat Theater” capability Jobs showed off reminded me of Vista’s Meeting Space and/or the new Microsoft “Shared View” (code-named “Tahiti”) document-sharing/conferencing subsystems.”

Inevitably, there are features that do have rough equivalents on the Windows side. As both are mature operating systems with a mature set of helper applications, it’s not unusual for there to be some level of parity. iChat isn’t new, it’s just enhanced, like the majority of the 300 features in Leopard.

“10. Time Machine automatic backup. Vista has built-in automatic backup (Volume Shadow Copy). It doesn’t look anywhere near as cool as Time Machine. But it seems to provide a lot of the same functionality.”

Yes, and Apple also had its own backup solution, appropriately called “Backup”, prior to this. This was demoed in more detail last year. Still, if Foley had done a little research she’d be aware of some of the differences. Foley acknowledges that Time Machine looks cooler. By that statement alone, it contradicts her claim that Leopard looks like Vista. But, there is a lot of innovation in the interface to common concepts such as data backups. Apple’s interface to this feature is innovative. Further, at a functional level, individual applications can access the APIs. Likewise, you can retrieve data at the application level. Jobs demonstrated the example of restoring personal address within the address book and restoring photos from within iPhoto last year. Does Volume Shadow Copy offer this?

Foley goes on to make the following statement in her article:

“I’m not trying to pull a Dvorak here and use this blog post for click bait.”

Well, that’s unfortunate if true. Given that she has more than 20 years of experience covering the technology industry, I would have been more than happy to give her the benefit of the doubt in hopes that this was just an attempt to get more attention for her articles. As she points out, a common tactic is to write something controversial in hopes to get lots of visitors to your web site. This in turn makes advertisers happy. Since she claims this is not the case, then I find it rather sad how poor her journalism skills are.

Leopard vs. Vista: Take two
By Mary Jo Foley
June 13, 2007

Not surprisingly, an overwhelming number of people “misunderstood” the point of her first article. She goes on and attempts to discredit the majority of her responses by labeling the authors as fanatics, mentioning the personal attacks on her and the use of fake e-mail addresses for replies. On some level, it’s a shame that people resort to such tactics. Extreme responses tend to negate any legitimate points that may have been brought up in a response. She even takes her shot at Linux users.

At the same time, it’s fair to question Foley’s journalism skills for demonstrating such a gross lack of knowledge on the subject matter she’s covering.

“My original post was not an attempt at a Vista vs. Leopard product review (in response to the reader who said s/he’d contact my managers to make sure this ZDNet reviewer was fired!). Nor was it a news story. It was my plain, old, biased opinion, as most blog posts tend to be.”

Foley attempts to go into damage control mode here, but it doesn’t work. How can she claim she’s not attempting a product review, yet ask her audience “Why is Leopard so superior to Vista” and specifically go down a point by point listing of some of the demonstrated features? While doing this, she makes the point of saying that Leopard looks like Vista. In my opinion, there is an inherent contradiction with this

I also don’t like it when journalists try to hide behind blogs and claim it’s just her opinion and not a news story. That much is clear. Still, what does Foley do for a living? Isn’t she supposed to be a journalist professionally? She uses the word “opinion” to cover for inaccuracy and poor journalism. In my “opinion”, the moment you decide to share your opinion, you’re open to criticism.

“Admittedly, my headline choice (“Leopard looks like … Vista”) for my original blog posting was poor. A lot of folks immediately assumed I was asserting that Leopard — the version of Mac OS X coming this October, which Jobs demonstrated at the Worldwide Developers Conference on July 11 — was copied from Vista.”

Yes, and having reread her article, I still get that impression, at least to some extent. Apparently, the measure of how “up to date” an operating system is directly proportional to the amount of eye candy in the user interface. At least that’s the message I get from her articles on the matter.

Anyway, it’s back to damage control mode for Foley. Clearly, in order to claim she was misunderstood, she has to acknowledge something she did was wrong. In this case, she’s acknowledging a poor choice of headlines.

What features coming in Leopard do you think will leapfrog Vista?

Sadly, she’s trying to make a point by looking for that one killer feature that sets one operating system above another. That’s a naïve look at the subject matter. Each operating system has hundreds of features to compare. It’s nearly impossible for one feature that will apply for everyone as the killer feature that makes one operating system better than another. In reality, a product as large as an operating system is a product that is the sum of its parts. The answer to her question lies in the in depth comprehensive comparison of those features. To my knowledge, there is no such comparison. A fully comprehensive comparison would compare the operating system distributions at the technical level for performance and developers as well as the end user functional level. The closet I’ve seen to such a comparison is http://www.xvsx

Conclusion

The reality is, the Mac OS is a niche market. The business world has standardized on the Microsoft Windows platform, at least for desktop purposes, years ago. People like to use what they are most familiar with. In terms of operating systems, that’s usually Windows. With the 6 years of development for Vista, Microsoft had fallen significantly behind the Mac OS on a feature and technology basis. To Microsoft’s credit, Vista has largely caught up with Apple’s Mac OS 10.4 Tiger. In some cases, it’s slightly ahead and in some cases, it’s slightly behind still. Leopard, due out in October, is Apple’s most recent release. In most cases, its features are improvements on existing technology rather than bold, new, revolutionary features. That’s not a bad thing. That means Tiger is already a mature operating system just as Vista is. I wouldn’t consider Leopard to be a bold leap over Vista, but it does successfully negate any advantage Vista had over Tiger and adds a bit of refinement above Vista’s offerings. By leveraging open source technology with their own technology and innovative interfaces, Apple has managed to stay ahead of Microsoft since the introduction of OS X. Microsoft did a great job of closing this gap with Vista, but Leopard reestablishes the separation between the two, if only by a small margin. Going forward, Microsoft will have to do a much better job of delivery than they did with Vista if they wish to remain competitive on average. Apple has established a much more consistent delivery of new technology as compared to Microsoft.

But, I digress. This article was not meant to compare Vista with Leopard. Rather, it was to demonstrate how irresponsible journalism can serve to propagate misinformation. Mary Jo Foley’s summary and comparison of the 10 Leopard features demonstrated was rather pathetic. While this is obvious to those familiar with both operating systems, I have to wonder how many people read her column and come away with the wrong conclusion based on her misinformation. I don’t mean to single her out. Surely, she is not alone in reporting misinformation. In fact, her second article links to an eWeek article by Joe Wilcox that is equally misinformed. It seems that she’d rather quote another journalist that doesn’t understand the technologies involved rather than doing a little research on her own. I wonder how many other bumbling idiots will pick up the same misinformation and cite one of these two “journalists” as the source for their “mis”information.

In any case, Foley seems to have been called out in her own forum for this article. She was bothered enough by it that she felt compelled to do a follow up for damage control. The damage control wasn’t convincing in my opinion, but hopefully, being burned on this one will teach her to do a little due diligence before expressing her next “opinion”.

Is Vista really that bad?

March 16, 2007

Thursday, March 14, 2007

Since Microsoft Vista’s public debut in January, I’ve read many articles about Vista – most of which were not complimentary. This article will take a look at the public’s reaction to Vista and try to examine why the reception has been so cold.

I’m far from a Microsoft apologist, but there are some factors which are beyond Microsoft’s control. That is, in some ways, I believe people are over reacting to the problems with Vista. Of course, many issues are indeed directly attributed to Microsoft.

A historical perspective…

When Windows 95 was launched nearly 12 years ago, it was met with much fan fair amongst the PC world. Finally, Microsoft had delivered an operating system with a usable GUI that was actually comparable to the Macintosh. Windows 3.11 and below were a sad joke. It was purely a graphic shell layered over a weak foundation – MS DOS. While it wasn’t perfect, Windows 95 was at least on par with the standard of excellence at that time (Mac OS). In some ways, it was still worse, but in some ways it was even better. Given Microsoft’s momentum and market share, there was little reason to even look at alternatives anymore. Given this breakthrough, it’s not hard to understand why so many people stood in long lines to upgrade their PCs.

Since then, Microsoft has tried very hard to generate that kind of enthusiasm for their products. Microsoft followed with Windows 98 which was a reasonable upgrade. It was nothing to get excited about, but it was a welcome upgrade over Windows 95. Unfortunately, in 2000, Microsoft followed with Windows ME. Windows ME was a bug ridden embarrassment for Microsoft. However, Microsoft was given a little slack because they were spending most of their efforts on their Windows NT product in parallel. Most Windows users either stuck with Windows 98 or they upgraded to Windows 2000 (an NT based product). Windows 2000 was a stable OS, certainly in contrast to Windows ME. However, it was geared more for the office environment than it was for the home environment.

In 2001, Microsoft finally introduced Windows XP. It was their NT based operating system that had the necessary bells and whistles for home consumer use. Microsoft has always been up front with their product plans (perhaps too much so). Likewise, when the “stinker of an OS” that was Windows ME was released, consumers didn’t get very upset because they knew they could migrate to Windows 2000 or just wait a year for Windows XP. Windows XP finally gave consumers features like protected memory and preemptive task scheduling, etc. Which means it could walk and chew gum at the same time and is considerably less prone to crashing. This was a very significant upgrade to the Win9x series on a technical level. However, it didn’t look all that much different from its predecessors. XP had a successful product launch, but nothing on the scale of Windows 95.

With that historical perspective in mind, let’s examine issues that factor into Vista’s acceptance.

1. It’s been almost 6 years since Microsoft’s last major software release (XP).

Sure, there was a server release in 2003 along with Windows Mobile releases, 64bit versions of XP that nobody used, etc. However, they were just more variations of the same thing and more importantly, they were not competing in the same market space. People don’t like change. There was enough uproar over Windows service pack 2 as it was. Of course, for many, this was with good reason as it wreaked significant havoc in terms of compatibility issues, etc. With that in mind, it’s understandable that many don’t like the notion of being forced to use Vista. If you question whether people are forced to use / buy Vista, try ordering a Dell (for example) without Vista and see what happens.

2. Most major OS releases are accompanied by incompatibilities from third party vendors.

Vista is no different in this regard. Of course, is this Microsoft’s fault? Vendors have had access to Vista betas for a very long time. Many third party vendors have simply decided it’s not worth their effort to release updates to their software and device drivers until there is a sufficient mass of users to warrant the effort. To me, that’s backwards thinking. It’s not like there is any doubt that Vista will be widely adopted. One way or the other, Microsoft will force Vista upon the masses because it has a monopoly and likewise has the power to do so. Yes, alternatives do exist, but the cost is prohibitive for most businesses and let’s be honest – the masses of consumers are largely like sheep. They just follow the herd when buying a computer. Comparing platforms requires significant knowledge of more than one operating system. That automatically eliminates the masses from even considering an alternative operating system.

3. The press has been hard on Microsoft because they over promised with Longhorn and under delivered with Vista.

To clarify, it’s that that Vista doesn’t represent a significant upgrade over Vista. It does. Rather, Vista delivers less than what was originally promised. Further, customers expect more after 6 years of development and 6 billion dollars of investment. Vista’s development from a project management perspective was nothing short of a disaster. It was supposed to be delivered in 2004 with much better features. Of course, this is what happens when you are to upfront with your customers in terms of your plans. Anything less than your original promise will be considered a disappointment. If you miss your originally targeted ship date, you’ve again disappointed your customers. So, then, why does Microsoft do this? Well, this is an old marketing trick from Microsoft. When your competitor has a better product than you, talk about vaporware. That’s right; create FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

Just as Windows XP was announced in 2001, so was Apple’s Mac OS X. Mac OS X had the same “buzzword compliant” features such as memory protection and preemptive multitasking, etc. It had more though such as a BSD subsystem which allowed for many of the services common to UNIX (like) distributions. It had an advanced “Quartz” compositing system that made previous compositors such as Apple’s own Quickdraw and Microsoft’s GDI+ look incredibly out dated. It had its own built in PDF engine, etc. The list goes on… So, Microsoft’s XP product was outclassed by Apple’s OS X. OS X was brand new, so it had its own share of compatibility issues, few native software titles were available and it generally needed a release or two in order to better mature before it would be a great OS. Still, it had a foundation that was years ahead of Microsoft. Microsoft knew that, so they did what they always do. Basically, they made up a list of features that they planned to include in their next OS and promised those features in an unrealistic time frame. The idea is to keep your customer base where they are by providing the impression that they will eventually have some sort of feature parity – eventually.

Well, as we know, the years went buy, Microsoft missed several of its own self imposed deadlines while losing credibility in the process. Worse, along the way, Microsoft shed a significant portion of the product’s features such as WinFS, Palladium (next generation security), etc. Meanwhile, the press has watched OS X evolve (Cheetah 10.0, Puma 10.1, Jaguar 10.2, Panther 10.3, Tiger 10.4). While these operating system updates were not quite as grandiose in scope, they were very significant and steady updates. In the process, Apple has delivered even more advanced features on a more regular basis. In doing so, it established credibility in terms of being able to deliver quality software on time.

4. Once again, Microsoft has delivered a “me too” product.

It’s difficult for the press to get excited about something that’s already been done before. Microsoft spent nearly 6 years and 6 billion dollars in order to get rough feature parity with Apple’s Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). An in depth comparison of the two operating systems is beyond the scope of this article. However, when you look at the major selling points of Vista, you have to look at Tiger and say “been there, done that”. Examples:

Vista Mac equivalent
Aero/Windows presentation foundation Aqua/Quartz
Windows Search Spotlight
Windows Sidebar / Gadgets Dashboard / Widgets
Internet Explorer 7 Safari
(IE 7 finally gets tabbed browsing/rss) (Safari already has that)
Windows Media Player 11 iTunes/Quicktime
Windows Mail Apple Mail
Windows Calendar iCal
Windows Photo Gallery iPhoto
Windows DVD Maker iDVD
Windows Media Center Front Row *
Windows Meeting Space iChat AV *
(formerly Netmeeting)
Shadow Copy .Mac Backup *
Better security (UAC, BitLocker, Defender) built in, FileVault (no viruses exist)
Microsoft Services for Unix BSD
Windows Workflow Foundation Automater *

* Note: In some of the examples above, there is not a 1:1 feature comparison.
Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) which is due out this spring will further establish Apple’s lead in this area with features like Time Machine, Spaces, Core Animation, etc.

From the media’s point of view, its taken Microsoft years, spending billions along the way, to produce a “me too” product that doesn’t break any new ground. Yawn.

5. Nothing can live up to Microsoft’s marketing hype.

What does Microsoft say? “The Wow starts here” or something like that? I guess that’s what you’re supposed to say when you see something like Flip 3D. That’s Microsoft’s eye candy equivalent of the Alt-Tab window switching mechanism. It offers nothing new in terms of functionality. It’s far less practical than something like Expose’ on the Mac. I suppose if you’ve never seen Aqua (Mac OS X’s interface), or something like KDE on Linux, etc. then you might be impressed by transparencies, etc. Maybe that applies to some, but it probably doesn’t apply to people writing software reviews.

Is the bad press warranted?

Still, I can’t help but wonder if some are getting a bit carried away with the dumping on Vista. Some of the more popular bloggers are getting a bit carried away in my opinion. For example, Christopher Null suggests that Microsoft should re-release Windows XP. In support of his argument, he links to various other negative Vista issues.

“It’s time to sober up on Windows Vista. This just isn’t working out, and your users are getting frustrated to the point where they’re souring on Windows altogether. In case you haven’t seen some of the more noteworthy blog posts on this topic, I refer you to Chris Pirillo, Scot’s Newsletter, or Spend Matters. Or check out the recent bug reports regarding product activation and security flaws. This is all stuff I managed to dredge up that was written yesterday.”
http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/18428?comment_start=26&comment_count=20

Fortunately, the more mainstream press has been kinder than the bloggers. Still, when you rip-off your competitor, there is no getting around the feature comparison and comments that point out what you’ve done.

Vista Wins on Looks. As for Lacks …
By DAVID POGUE

“If the description so far makes Vista sound a lot like the Macintosh, well, you’re right. You get the feeling that Microsoft’s managers put Mac OS X on an easel and told the programmers, “Copy that.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/14/technology/14pogue.html?ex=1323752400&en=1cde0d24860d1fac&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

Mossberg Review: Vista best for Microsoft crop, but it’s no Apple
By WALTER MOSSBERG, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL,

“Nearly all of the major, visible new features in Vista are already available in Apple’s operating system, called Mac OS X, which came out in 2001 and received its last major upgrade in 2005. And Apple is about to leap ahead again with a new version of OS X, called Leopard, due this spring.”
http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=118344&ran=87842

Conclusion

There has been mixed press and an overall lack of enthusiasm for Microsoft Vista. The mainstream press hasn’t very critical of Vista, but the blogger community hasn’t been shy at venting frustration. The irony is that happened despite Microsoft’s attempt to bribe some of the most influential bloggers.
However, even the most favorable reviews of Vista can’t help compare it to what Apple has already done years ago.

One some levels, I understand where they media is coming from. If you’re going to take years on a project, spend billions of dollars, create all sorts media hype, one would expect the product to break new ground with a truly innovative product. Instead, this is what Microsoft does while just playing “catch up” to Apple.

On the other hand, Microsoft Vista is a very solid improvement over Windows XP. With any new operating system, there will be some compatibility issues. There will also be bugs. The general consensus is to wait until the first patch is released for any operating system before diving in. Suggesting Vista is a “me too” product is certainly condescending, but in reality, that’s not really a bad thing. Apple’s OS X 10.4 (Tiger) is an outstanding product. While being a “me too” product is faint praise, it also recognizes that it’s a significant leap from the outdated Windows XP product.

Also, while Apple has been ahead of Microsoft from a technology perspective overall, it’s not always completely one-sided. For example, Microsoft has implemented ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization). Briefly, this is a security feature which makes it more difficult for a potential vulnerability to be converted into a working exploit.

The point being is that those who suggest Microsoft should re-release Windows XP don’t know that they’re talking about. However, there are things Microsoft can do to help itself going forward. They are:

1. Don’t promise features and fail to deliver on the promise.

2. Don’t go 5 – 6 years without an operating system update. In six years from now, Vista will FAR behind the current version of the Mac OS at that time. More timely updates help bring out new technology sooner and it helps make the transition between operating systems smoother.

3. An operating system update doesn’t have to be a ground up rewrite. That’s the point of modularization and layers, etc. This also helps keep the code more reliable as well.

4. Try to concentrate on being more innovative rather than just copying what others have done. If you’re behind the curve in terms of features, you do need to catch up. However, your product will only gain respect if it leads the way. Microsoft does this on rare occasion, but it’s the exception to the rule generally speaking.

This advice may sound like common sense, but apparently, it is not. Not coincidentally, the four items above are examples of what Apple is doing right and Microsoft is not. Apple has demonstrated how to do this right. If Microsoft is going to copy Apple, why stop at the product features and not also consider the development model. Just look at what Apple has been able to deliver at a fraction of the cost Microsoft spends on development. It’s an embarrassment for Microsoft and it’s been recognized by Microsoft’s own management. The good news for Microsoft is that these problems can be fixed. The question is: How will Microsoft rebound after the Vista development fiasco?


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