Apple’s Tiger vs. Windows XP 64-Bit Edition vs. Linux

On Friday Apple released its “Tiger” operating system into the marketplace.Borrowing heavily from what we had seen in Longhorn (Microsoft’s next version of Windows) last year, Tiger is an impressive piece of work. I’m not one of those who thinks that using a competitor is a bad idea, particularly if you can get it out first. You play this game to win and, as long as it’s legal, in my book anything goes.

Tiger is well-integrated with hardware and provides a solid out-of-box user experience. The user interface is mature and it has a UNIX core that remains one of the most secure on the market. With a good balance of ease of use, performance, and reliability, Tiger would seem to be the OS of choice for must users over a Linux distribution.

Tiger vs. Linux

However, not all users can afford Apple hardware. The Mac Mini, while relatively low-cost, can’t compare to the price of a low-end Intel, AMD, or VIA-based box running Linux. We have to remember much of the third world makes a fraction of what the Western world makes income and as such those consumers are very price-driven: US$100 to them may represent as much as a month’s salary so every penny counts.

For those that want to get intimate with the code, Linux, because it is fully open-source, is better. This would include both programming professionals looking to create a unique solution as well as software hobbyists. Granted, this second group only constitutes less than one percent of the market, but they, like their “hardware-modder” counterparts are very hands on and often very active in forums, sometimes seeming to be a much larger group than they actually are.

However, when it comes to the average user there really is no comparison. The extra money spent for an Apple machine is well worth the vastly better support an individual will get from Apple over Red Hat or Novell, and virtually none of the hardware vendors is excited about desktop Linux yet (primarily because it isn’t profitable).

With servers, where there is a good economic model, Linux would clearly remain favored over Apple because of much deeper support from companies like HP and IBM. But on the desktop, for most users, Tiger is the clear winner. It has better desktop application bundles, better customer support, better hardware, good value (when you can afford the minimum entry price), and is vastly easier to use.

An interesting competitive approach might be to combine a Linux server solution and an Apple desktop solution into a package and market the result. This solution would probably be more attractive then a generic Linux or Apple server/client solution and it would put each platform where it has the strongest competitive advantage. Given Apple doesn’t really partner well and Linux folks are incredibly insular, I doubt this will happen. But it is interesting to think about what might result if it did.

Tiger vs. Windows XP 64-Bit Edition

If this were a competition based simply on names Tiger would get my vote. The Microsoft product name is almost a sentence and the acronym WXP64BA looks like a password I would quickly forget. I don’t know who is responsible for naming at Microsoft these days but he, or she, seems to be working way too hard to validate my old axiom: “The only thing people will agree on when it comes to a new product name is that the person who came up with it is an idiot.”

I guess we could make it worse bay calling it the “Windows XP 64-Bit Edition with SP 2 and knock three times on the ceiling if you want me Edition,” but I’m hoping coming up with names like that doesn’t become the next big thing in Redmond.

On the product side, Tiger has a number of features that appear to have been pulled from Longhorn’s preview last year. The biggest one is “smart search,” a feature that allows you to rapidly search a variety of file types to find what you need. With storage approaching a Terabyte now, this is an incredibly useful feature and one Windows users will have to get from a third party until Longhorn ships late next year.

Another is virtual folders. This allows you to group files virtually by author, topic, or other criteria making them a lot easier to find. Finally there is the use of widgets, something you can get in a third-party product called “Window Blinds” and also shown last year by Microsoft. This allows you to put little useful applets on your screen. This last is more eye candy than anything else, but I like it and it makes the OS look cool.

Standout Features

Of the rest of the features, the two that stand out to me is a higher level of security over downloaded applications than Windows currently has and stronger parental controls. While unfortunately parents often don’t use the parental controls they have available to them, protecting kids is incredibly important to me and it is nice to know it is important to Apple as well.

On downloaded files you have to put in your ID and password to install an application, and given I used to go into my old boss’s office and install joke applications on his machine from time to time (one made the letters of the screen fall off the bottom at an increasing rate, another made it look like he was going through a nuclear meltdown) I’m thinking this is a good idea as well.

Windows XP 64 Bit Edition ,which was wrapped with a huge amount of fanfare and hoopla at the launch (er, well, more like if you blinked you missed it), is the most secure desktop OS from Microsoft currently shipping. More of a precursor to Longhorn so that vendors will write the necessary 64-bit drivers, it is available on new hardware and not as an upgrade. It really isn’t designed for the home market and the likely targets are those doing specialized research, multi-media authoring, CAD, and complex financial analysis. Mainstream it isn’t, but if you need the power of a 64-bit platform and particularly if you like AMD hardware, this is your OS. The majority of us aren’t there yet.

However, in the unlikely event a business were to look at the two platforms using the normal key criteria of multiple hardware vendors, existing application support, and ease of integration into an existing infrastructure, generally Windows XP 64 bit addition would win (though I think most would simply choose to stay with their existing Windows load).

Tiger does do a vastly better job of integrating with an existing environment, but it will still be more difficult than Windows. In addition, given most internal audit departments’ focus on requiring competitive bidding for hardware purchases, most IT organizations would simply not take the risk of moving to a single vendor, particularly given Apple’s incredibly uneven history with business support.

Users’ Call

As an individual, if you can live on the platform, there really is no competition: Tiger would easily be my choice. But if you have to use Windows at work, moving between the two user interfaces is painful and should make you less productive on the Windows machine. This will be an individual call; if the fun of using the Apple platform is greater than the constant aggravation of the difference, then Apple is your path. If not, stay with Windows. Overall, I think Apple will grow its market with this OS and the Mac Mini. Maintaining it after Longhorn ships is a question we’ll address later.

What will I use? I’m a gamer, and I love to modify my hardware, but Tiger doesn’t support my favorite game and you don’t “mod” Apple hardware. Apple has yet to come out with an OS I can use, and until they do, ugly name and all, I’m on Windows and waiting for Longhorn.

Rob Enderle, a TechNewsWorld columnist, is the Principal Analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.


  • I have always been curious about Linux, but installing it and configuring it seemed too complicated. That and the fact that I throw every bit of money I can spare at Apple’s feet has kept me from buying a PC to try Linux. Imagine if the question wasn’t "What if you could run Mac OS X on a PC?" but instead, "What if you could run Linux on a Mac?" Well my friends, you certainly can! And have been able to do so for a while now!: These people sell Macs with Linux Pre-installed! As is Mac-On-Linux, allowing you to run Mac OS X side by side with Linux on your Mac. I think this makes for some interesting things to think about, when you consider Apples competively priced Servers, and XServe RAID. But honestly, no audio, or Sleep, limited wireless conectivity, wont stop me from continuing to use Mac OS X. But it IS all very interesting to think about!

    • Apple does not borrow from Microsoft. Period.
      Before Bill Gates introduced the first version of Windows he asked Apple to copyright their OS. Apple refused and M$ literally copied their GUI. This resulted in Aplle filing a lawsuit against Microsft in the 80’s.
      The same thing happened with Stacker (anyone remember doublespace renamed to Drivespace?) M$ ended up buying the company!
      Kings of innocation?? I think more like.. king$ of COPYING.

  • Wow????Did this guy do any research or did he make things up as he went long. I agree with the article overall, I think. Not sure really, their were so many inacurracies and half truths that even though agreed with your conclusion, your journalistic skills at best suck.
    Please do not quote things you are not sure of or just flat out don’t know, it really lowers the credibility of your review.

  • Do better research next time. A simple google search for "apple spotlight patent" would have revealed this.
    Are not you aware that OS X has had a compositing engine called Quartz since 10.0 and 10.2 provided us with 3D quartz hardware acceleration? Longhorn is supposed to come out with a compositing engine called Avalon. Are you not also aware that Core Image/Video came from their product Motion and smart folders are based on smart playlists in iTunes?
    Are you not aware that NeXTStep, which OS X is descended had a compositing engine based on postscript called display postscript?

  • I remember when one of our sections installed a Mac running OS X 10.1 at work, much to that Windowphile manager’s annoyance. (He’d had to admit that colour management in Windows was inferior to Mac). There was a mix of surprise and horror as the system came "alive" and without prompting or configuration joined the LAN, placing icons of each server on the desktop, then accessed the network’s broadband connection and waited for someone to register the hardware purchase. Scanner support was out of the box, but printer support required a download. I admit that’s usually the reverse situation. Apparently Apple has moved to integrate the OS even more smoothly with Windows networks in the years since then.
    In February,I bought a home Mac Mini and it recognised all of my non-Apple peripherals, wired or not. This included the make & model of my Diamondtron monitor which it automatically asked whether I wanted to make part of colour management. The SCSI scanner uses a USB converter, but it is recognised, as is my circa 1991 Stylewriter using a serial to USB converter. (Someone in the Mac community had written a driver and a one-step installer; others updated it to work through to OS X 10.3). I also have a USB colour BJ printer, but it’s nowhere near as stingy with ink as the S’Writer.
    Last year, I plugged in a work Toshiba Tecra laptop with WXP and there it was on my PowerMac desktop. The downside ironically was that my Mac version of Powerpoint had features that weren’t supported on the version loaded on the PC, so I had to "dumb down" bits of the presentation before sending it on the road.

  • Do you not find it AM azing that Mac OSX.4 ‘borrows heavily’ from an operating system that won’t even be RELEASED for another year and a half?? Could it be that Longhorn is ‘borrowing heavily’ from Mac OSX? Naw– has to be the other way around because everyone knows that Microsoft are the kings of innovation and user satisfaction. ‘Soft has been copying Apple since the 80’s– we might as well admit this much..Long live Longhorn moooo..

  • Life’s short, give me the best machine possible to do my work. I can manage to use a separate machine for playing games, be it xbox, gamecube, windows, etc… And I AM sick of viruses and spyware.

  • Well, coming from Enderle this article sounds like he is actually impressed with Tiger. That in itself is pretty impressive.
    Of course, as usual the guy doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about. I’ve never agreed with him, but I completely lost all faith in his integrity as a journalist after he posted a fictional review of the Apple iMac G5 last year. It was a laughable review. He actually claimed that one of the reasons he would not buy or recommend the iMac G5 is because he would be worried that the unit could tip over and that the LCD screen could break and shatter in the event of an earthquake! LOL.. Seriously, he actually said this. Nevermind the fact that there is absolutely no glass to be found on the iMac G5.
    Back to the current article, Yep, Enderle loves to bash Apple… It seems that it was very difficult for him to find anything to complain about with Tiger though. Oh yeah, he did throw in his obligatory "Tiger is borrowing heavily from what we had seen in Longhorn last year" Urgghh!
    Dude get a clue, Every major feature that is in Tiger was announced and demonstrated by Steve Jobs more than a year ago at Apples WWDC. Along with banners promoting Mac OSX TIger that read "Redmond, start your photocopiers." Does this guy do any research at all? I guess not. Funny how he failed to mention that Tiger is shipping NOW and the vaporus Longhorn is dropping features almost daily and is still almost 2 years from release.
    Oh well, at least you can’t say that his fictional articles are not entertaining!

  • Rob,
    How could they have "borrowed" these features from last year’s Longhorn Preview if I was already working with these features, last year, in the Tiger Beta release?
    To accuse a company with a commercially available product of copying something that isn’t even in wide Beta release shows your bias.

  • I don’t feel that search in Tiger borrows heavily from Longhorn as has been reported. I think it borrows heavily from the search field in iTunes. The iTunes search field predates public Longhorn demos.

  • Mr Enderle,
    Credibility is base on one thing: Standing to your own word. Back on 2004 at "A Midsummer’s Mac Death Match, Round One: Enderle vs. Chaffin" your wrote:
    Several Critical Tests
    "On the computer side Microsoft is rolling out a very Mac OS-like operating system codenamed Longhorn in 2006"
    It was clear, to you, that MS would be borrowing Apple. Now you changed your word by saying that Tiger is the one borrower??.
    One fact is evident, at least to all of us: last Firday 29, an OS hitted the street (not as a Delta or Beta release)… its name is "Mac OS X 10.4 CN Tiger". Not an unnamed OS CN Longhorn on Beta test releases (NOT even a candidate release yet !!!!).
    Since the basement of your article is worng, the entire article is wrong. Re-write it and probably I’ll take a look at it.

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