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What are the differences between Mac OS X and Windows?

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The Windows Platform

  • The Taskbar (bottom)
  • The Start Menu (bottom)

The Mac OS X Platform

  • The Dock (bottom)
  • The Finder Menu (top)

For people who never worked in a computer, they can be both hard to learn. To a novice user the difference can be striking. For a savvy user, it's a matter of minutes; looking around and clicking their way around. The real differences are in the programming, they are two completely different computing coding underneath. The processor may (or may not) be different (due to Apple releasing the Intel Macs).

It wasn't always like this, at this moment and time, Mac and Windows can get along fairly well, they are also fairly compatible to one another specially in a network. But back in the 90s, there was still a lawsuit going on from Apple against Microsoft, one that they lost due to their own carelessness.

Leaving all of those differences in the past the companies really know more than to fight with one another nowadays.

How It All Began Edit

The Apple Lisa and Macintosh Edit

It all started with the Macintosh in January 24th, 1984; Apple had developed the first graphical user interface (GUI) operating system of it's kind to be available for commercial use. The operating system for the Macintosh had been an improved version of the Lisa operating system, released more than a year before (January 1983).

While Apple still supported it's ProDOS operating system the Apple II ran, it became apparent that a black screen with text commands just wasn't the best for a fast growing, commercial environment.

It was Steve Jobs who decided to save the computing industry from commands that looked and felt like an alienic tongue; such thing wasn't going to be the promising, fast growing future of computing. It was depressing, un-stylish and it was doomed to failure. He originally saw the idea of GUI he used later on the Lisa and the Macintosh; in the Alto computer which wasn't a commercial product at all, it was an office machine from Xerox PARC built back in 1973.

Before that time, the standard PC operating system Microsoft MS-DOS (aka DOS) that the common IBM computer (and clones) ran wasn't all that different from Apple's ProDOS. After the success of the Macintosh (Mac for short), Microsoft realized that the Mac would catch up in sales and eventually may overpower Microsoft's leadership over office computing equipment. In productivity, ease of use and speed issues; it would take months to successfully train a new office secretary to manage MS-DOS, but it took only a few weeks for most office secretaries (let alone most common people) to learn how to use a Macintosh effectively.

Unraveling the Evolution of Graphical User Interface Edit

The Birth of Windows Edit

Microsoft needed something simple to keep their customers happy. Soon after the Macintosh was confirmed to be a success, (about a year or so later after its launch), the Microsoft team began working on what would be the first graphical user interface for their IBM clone computers that would be as close as possible to the Macintosh operating system. Microsoft successfully and legally reverse engineered the Macintosh operating system, and built it on top of the current MS-DOS to be compatible with most current PCs. Otherwise people with computers running MS-DOS would have been forced to buy a new computer that could run Windows.

Windows 1.0 was released in November 1985, but wasn't a standard product in most businesses.

It still took Microsoft 5 years to be able to finally release an operating system stable enough to be commercially launched to the public, Windows 3.0; the third major release of the original Windows version 1.0.

However, none of the Windows versions were per-say full-flesh operating systems, the user had to have DOS installed in order to be able to install them. Which in fact made DOS their primary operating system. Windows would run as a shell program, often opened in the command line by the user. It wasn't until the release of Windows 95 in which the operating system was a full standalone program functioning over a minimized version of DOS 7.0; which wasn't an operating system but more like a platform to install Windows 95 on.

Windows 95 Edit

The launch of Windows 95 made worldwide news, promised to be the best, first ever, one-and-only real Windows standalone operating system for the PC. At the time, many business offices and home computers were still running DOS due to either people refusing to update, because the advance of Windows 3.1 didn't quite warrant users of a future in computing; or simply because they couldn't afford it.

Although Windows 95 was more capable than Windows 3.1 it was still buggy, imperfect and had issues with multimedia drivers. Windows 95 had several update releases (titled A, B and C) attempting to fix many issues that everyday users kept complaining about.

Windows 98 Edit

In 1998 Microsoft finally came with a close-to-perfect version of their Windows operating system Windows 98. Finally an operating system consisting of a GUI that was stable, promising, which had killer apps and outstanding graphics. It also offered USB capability which would turn out to be the future of peripheral use in the computing industry.

Windows 2000 and Windows ME Edit

Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium Edition followed the release of Windows 98 two years later, but neither of them lived long when they were replaced by Windows XP in 2001.

Windows XP Edit

Windows XP was one of the most successful operating systems in the world, still being shipped in netbook computers and not yet discontinued in it's entirety. It had notable improvements over Windows 2000, ME, 98 and basically ALL the previous Windows versions.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 Edit

Windows Vista was released in January 2007 more than 5 years after XP. It promised to be more stable and secure than XP and to deliver the best user experience yet. However many computer users found that the new PCs they had just bought only a few months before, just couldn't run Vista; and those that could needed to erase their computers running XP entirely. It took some time for most users to adjust to it, but those who acquired a brand new PC with Vista found, that they had no considerable problems or issues with its security, its capabilities, etc. Vista was (and still is) a success.

Windows 7 was released only a few months ago (October 2009), and also promises to be an improvement over Vista. However there is ALREADY talk about a "Windows 8" version in development to replace 7 in Wikipedia:

"Windows 7 will be succeeded by Windows 8, which has no release date as of yet."

Back to the origins of GUI Edit

Apple Company Development Edit

It wasn't always sunny at Apple. Before the release of their award winning products like the iMacs, iPods, iPhones and others, the company made many mistakes that took the company to near a catastrophic end. One of the most horrible mistakes they did was to fire their co-creator, their spine, their strength, in May 1985: Steve Jobs. He was replaced by John Sculley.

The GUI software development of the Mac followed with great successes like System 7, Mac OS 8, then later Mac OS 9, all proving to be better than the last; but by that time Apple was running out of fuel.

The once "GUI fever" that took the world by surprise years before, had died down. Since Microsoft had come up with products that were "good enough" to keep people entertained, building your own computer was as easy (or as cheap) as grabbing a few parts, and a clunky computer shell for a few bucks in computer shows; (or get an old 486 one) and turn it into a functional PC running Windows 95, 98, etc.

In the other hand, Macs were godsend easy to use, beautiful, came fully built, had guaranteed full functionality, for about a thousand dollars; but were still no match for a clunky PC that would cost a home-geek-user about $300 to build from scratch (even after spending hours trying to figure out hardware problems and jumper settings for their drives and peripherals). The price of a brand new fully built IBM clone was also considerably smaller than the one of a Macintosh, and they came with manufacturer warranty.

The Apple Savior Edit

Steve Jobs may have been down at the time of being fired from Apple, but he surely wasn't out. While Apple continued to thrive with the original concept of the GUI, Steve Jobs was hard at work using not only what he had learned from Xerox PARC and the release of the Mac, but other tricks he had up his sleeve. He put all of those together to develop a super powerful computer; the NeXT computer. At the time of his departure from Apple, several employees decided to go with him.

The line of Mac IIs were doing ok at Apple, but it could have been better. Cost for building a Mac II computer was starting to take a toll on Apple. The fact that all the components including color monitors, sound speakers, graphic cards, etc. just had to come from Apple, due to selfish Apple licensing; there were no Mac clones.

For the user who could get a Mac, having an Apple product meant you had the best possible quality of any computer product; yet it was more than what the average user could afford. In a world in which having a computer in your block was still a rarity (in the early 90s), this wasn't going to work.

There was no doubt Apple were great at creating stable computer operating systems, durable computers, high quality equipment that were loved by their users, but... there was always that awesome looking PC selling for $400 less at CompUSA!

Apple also built many products that failed. For example, they made an attempt to launch a super powerful Mac, with TV capabilities called the Macintosh TV in 1994. The Macintosh TV had an expensive price tag ($2000+) and had horrible flaws that made it into a Road Apple. Only 10,000 were actually built and sold. A couple of upgraded following Macs could deliver what the MacTV could and more. They had more expansion capabilities, more RAM, etc. the only significant difference was they had no built-in TV tuner -which was no problem since the MacTV tuner could be bought separately from several Mac retailers; making the MacTV not even desired by most TV enthusiasts.

Around that time Apple began to notice that the NeXT computer system was almost futuristic, and they couldn't deny Steve Jobs had matured into a serious and successful business man; Apple saw dollars signs.

While both the NeXT computer and the Mac had proved themselves to be strong work-horses when it came to graphics and office productivity, they had lots of similarities, but like with Windows and Mac OS, the NeXT operating system was not compatible with Mac; and vice-verse. Regardless of that, Apple knew they'd eventually run out of fuel, they needed to save the company and at the same time they thought of a really good excuse to re-hire Steve Jobs back!

They bought NeXT computer company, as an attempt to take a leap at their salvation plank and said "Hi Steve, you're the owner now, no hard feelings all-right?"... practically.

Steve Jobs to the Rescue Edit

While still releasing interesting versions of Macs, like the TAM (Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh), products like the Newton pad, Apple was still in a lot of danger even as Steve Jobs was settling in, it would take a few months for all legal matters finishing the purchase to come to and end. Still Gil Amelio was in charge and it would take several months for Steve Jobs to take his place.

Immediately the development for a Unix based, NeXT OS similar Macintosh Operating System was started, an OS that would be a full-flesh, brand new operating system compatible with the current Macs at the time but, not compatible with the old Mac OS 9 operating system. There was a way to run many Mac OS 9 applications pertaining to business mostly, Apple didn't bother to meet requirements for all programs; many games and other miscellaneous programs would not emulate correctly and some would even crash Classic.

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