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Late Response to Paul Thurrott’s Vista Article

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Late Response to Paul Thurrott's Vista Article

Picture of IrvinI know that I'm late to the game on this, but hopefully not too late. I am not one to defend Microsoft, in fact, most of the time I'm slaying them for their mind-numbing mistakes, however the article that Paul Thurrott's article explaining why Vista would be a disappointment I thought a little unfair.

First off, he frequently says that Vista is just going to be a copy of OS X. I don't think so, Vista has the leg up on OS X in some ways, many of those deal with gaming, compatability, and developer base, but some are visual. For example, one of my common gripes about OS X, and I am a Mac user, is that it has no unified interface model any more. OS X has three or four different types of window looks. There is the cool brushed metal look, then there is the strange plastic look that was introduced with 10.3, and an odd twist on the plastic look that was added in Tiger is the plastic look with no divider between the menu / icon bar and the rest of the application. The final look that OS X sports is the light grey horizontal lines, milky look that they started with 10.0.0. This wouldn't be so bad, except that Apple themselves do it, and developers are really bad about this. It isn't common to have like 3 silver windows up, one strange plastic with no dividers look up, and the lower quality original milky skin that OS X started with. They keep screwing with this in each release. That is not cool. When I first used 10.0.4 it was beautiful, every part of the OS's look appeared to have been addressed with TLC, drop shadows were where they should be, inactive windows had real transparent headers. Sure it was slow as a can of worms, and buggy, but it showed potential. They started to degrade the UI in 10.1, and this has continued until today. It probabaly has to do with the performance issues OS X has always been plagued by, but who knows why they are messing with that. I mean, the minimize, maximize, and close buttons don't always do the same thing for each application. For iTunes, the maximize button turns the application into the mini-player, but in other applications, it iconifies the app. That kind of stuff is infuriating. Developers shouldn't even have the option to do that, and Apple should not be encouraging developers to play around with things that will negatively impact the user's experience.

Many Mac users were disappointed with 10.4, including me. I felt completely let down by it. Spotlight is a joke, it eats up system resources like candy, and doesn't support common search techniques from the main query box. Not to mention that it was supposed to be fast, but on my G5 1.6 GHz, it wasn't any faster than 10.3's search. Dashboard was cool at first, but now I hardly use it. Otherwise, there are no worthwhile enhancements. Vista will spank 10.4 as far as features, usability, and performance are concerned, which is why Apple has to release 10.5 before Vista. 10.4 isn't even stable, there are spinning beach balls all the time, and I've had the entire thing freeze up several times on three of my 4 Macs. The 4th is still running 10.2.

The hardware requirements of 10.4 are pretty crazy too. You either need a Core Duo, or a pretty serious G5 to do anything significant with it. If you don't have at least 2 GB of RAM, forget about the system performing decently. I think that Microsoft is doing the right thing by pulling out parts of the OS that make the system perform badly, or that will cause the hardware requirements to skyrocket. Its cool that Vista will scale itself back to make sure that everyone can run it. I know that people will say that OS X does the same thing, by disabling Quartz Extreme and the more intense Core Graphics effects, but even with that off, OS X is still a dog until you feed it 2 GB of RAM. Microsoft clearly wants Vista to be more than a botique OS, they want for it to be the workhorse that the people expect. That's what it all comes down to anyway, how much can you get done with whatever. That's the whole purpose of a computer, not to geek out over the OS no matter how much we do it. It doesn't matter if the UI is sexier than Nicole Kidman if it is so slow that no one can do any work. MS gets this so they pulled WinFS until it will perform.

This kind of stuff can't be helped, these are big companies with big egos, and the sales guys will always make promises that the engineers can't deliver on. I'm sure that OS X still doesn't meet Jobs' expectation of what the OS should look like, but it doesn't mean that anyone is disgusted with Apple. People are mostly disgusted with Microsoft because it is the “in” thing to do, but really MS hasn't done anything that the rest of Silicon Valley isn't doing, they are just more “in your face” about it and not as slimy and underhanded. I mean look at Cisco and the whole gag order thing. We really shouldn't expect so much from these companies. No one is ever going to get the OS right for everyone. Its possible to get a Linux interface dialed in until it is exactly the way you want it if you are a programmer, but for most people it just doesn't work well enough for them to get anything done. OS X and Vista, as well as Windows XP are general OS's for grandma and everyone else. Of course they are going to be messed up in some ways.

I think that Paul Thurrott was unfair to Microsoft and, as are most Windows commentators, a little too complimentary to Apple. Even as great as a lot of this stuff is, its far from perfect. We should just expect less and be suprised more.