With all of the hubbub surrounding Google Office today I decided to write this blog post using Google Writely, which is an in-browser word processor that is part of the Google Docs & Spreadsheets service. It’s pretty nice so far, and I like that it has an autosave feature, because I’ve made use of it with this post. I started it, got distracted, and didn’t find my way back until now… 6 hours later.
But that’s not why I started this post.
I’ve been keeping up with Windows Vista. I’ve installed it. I’ve poked and prodded it. I’ve used the browser, created accounts, set up printing, mounted a networked file system, checked out the firewall settings, and, of course, mucked about with the pretty graphical enhancements they’ve made to Vista. Then, I spoke to other people. Two of the people I spoke two were Windows administrators, and generally “Windows guys”. I spoke to Windows end users who have recently purchased machines with Vista pre-installed. I’ve been in online forums and chat rooms, and scanned a few mailing lists as well, all to try to figure out what the big deal is in this most recent release of Windows.
Here’s the thing: it’s not a big deal.
If you use XP, Vista really only changes things that are going to annoy you. They’ve completely overhauled the Start menu, they’ve moved a bunch of stuff around, they made the navigation *look* slicker while at the same time actually being no more useful than it ever was, and meanwhile, when you actually find what you were looking for, it looks pretty much exactly like it did in XP. In short, they’ve made the same exact tools harder to find, but made the menus look slicker.
I forgot what Windows calls the desktop “widgets” it allows you to place on your desktop. I guess that’s because Apple actually calls them “widgets” in their “Dashboard” implementation, which is done so much better that to see the Windows version made me chuckle. It’s a joke, really. Windows typically doesn’t do new features very well – at least not at first. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that anything in Vista passes for “innovation”. For example, IE7 has tabs. Big whoop. Open source browsers you’ve never heard of made better use of tabs 6 or 7 years ago than IE7 does today. Believe it. Sad but true.
The security? Well, don’t buy the marketing. For every security feature Microsoft has added to Windows, there’s already an exploit, and the OS has only been out for about a month.
In short, if you need to purchase a desktop system, and you’re a non-technical end user type user, I hate to say it, but… buy a Mac. After using Linux for almost 10 years, I’m still not ready to give it the green light on the desktop. Macs are expensive, but I believe they’re worth it. On my desk sits the sickest workstation you could ever want to own: dual core amd processor, dual 20″ LCD monitors, 2GB RAM, 250GB hard drive, GigE networking, UPS, insane graphics card… the works. In spite of that, I’ve found that, after about a two month adjustment period, I now do 99.99% of my work, and 100% of my play, on my 15.4″ MacBook Pro laptop. The .01% of the work I do on my Linux machine is not because the Mac isn’t capable – it’s that the Mac isn’t on the secure network where certain administrative functions have to take place.
The Mac can run Microsoft Office. It can run Quicken. It can run Photoshop (in fact, it’s recommended by Adobe). It has wonderful applications, either built in or readily available to handle mail, calendaring and browsing and other day-to-day activities. It can do whatever the heck you want. If you’re a desktop user, Apple wants your business, and they’re working damn hard to prove that on an ongoing continuous basis. Linux, as a community, is mostly solving their own issues, scratching their own collective itch, and fighting with eachother. I sincerely hope Linux comes around, because with three major desktop competitors, the end users win, and I have sentimental and work-related ties to Linux.
Remember this, if nothing else: Windows users pick on Linux for a host of reasons, some are even valid gripes. Windows users pick on the Mac for one reason and one reason only: jealousy.