The battle between the Mac and the Windows operating systems has been taken to a whole new level, following the advent of the OS X Lion and Windows 8. The rivalry now extends to beyond the domain of software... the two giants are now exchanging blows across hardware platforms as well, including smartphones, tablets and desktops.
We had earlier discussed reports on portable-desktop platform convergence, as the two tech giants borrowed inspiration from their own products in contrasting fashions. Apple drew inspiration from the successful formula behind iOS to build the Mac OS X Lion, while Microsoft capitalised on the success of the Windows 7 Desktop OS and borrowed a few concepts from Windows 7.5 Mango in the making of Windows 8.
Here is a quick comparison of the features of the two platforms...
Released in June, 2011, Apple's iCloud borrows the concept of Cloud storage, from the iOS, and transfers it to the OS X Lion. The service offers up to 5GB of free online storage. Meanwhile, rivals Windows' Skydrive offers 25GB of online storage.
Hence, Microsoft wins the Cloud battle hands down.
Apple's App Store has gained immense popularity thanks to the iOS and the company intends to capitalise on that success with a dedicated Mac App Store, to enable its desktop users to purchase apps and OS upgrades online. With emphasis on ensuring safety of its users, Apple offers the chance for safe and secure downloads, with the option to filter apps from unofficial sources.
The Microsoft Windows Store allows for quick browsing, purchase and installation of Windows apps. Overall, given Windows dominance in the Apps market (for the desktop) - both free and paid - Microsoft, it seems has the upper hand. In addition, Windows also has unmatched support for gaming apps.
Thus, Microsoft is the clear winner in the battle of Apps support.
The Windows 8 Metro UI is expected to drop the "Start Menu" and "Taskbar" features in favour of full-screen apps and thereby provide the feel of a tablet with the experience of a desktop platform. Apple's Lion also features this functionality and may incorporate more performance tweaks with future updates.
There is no clear winner in this category.
The Windows Store offers apps that are both desktop and tablet compliant. This is in keeping with Microsoft's attempts to provide a unified experience across both platforms (desktop and portable). Some of these apps are also expected to run on ARM-powered smartphones.
On the other hand, Apple's Mountain Lion will sport the desktop version of its mobile apps, including Reminders, Notes and Game Center. Furthermore, the iChat desktop app has been re-named as "Messages" to match its iOS counterpart.
It is a clear draw in this category.
LaunchPad and Widgets
The LaunchPad concept (borrowed from the iOS) displays multiple home-screen pages of icons organized in a grid-like pattern. Windows 8 sports tile icons arranged as shortcuts to apps, representing information similar to widgets' functionality in smartphones.
It is a draw here as well.
Once upon a time, the Mac OS X and malware were total strangers to each other. Of late, Apple has admitted its concerns over malware threats to its software and hence unleashed the Gatekeeper app with the Mac OS X Lion, to block malware-infested apps from unverified sources. However, the ability to purchase digital certificates for such app installation continues to render it vulnerable.
On the other hand, Microsoft is riding on the success of its Windows Defender programme, which is believed to by far the best freeware security app available. Besides, the addition of the "Secure Boot" feature in Windows 8 eliminates boot time malware threats and hence makes it more secure.
Overall, Windows 8 is the clear winner in the security department.
The OS X Lion retains the trusted Safari browser. The Windows 8 flaunts IE 10 (Internet Explorer 10), which is a cosmetic upgrade of its predecessor, Internet Explorer 9.
There are no winners in this category.
Who is the ultimate winner?
Apple clearly rules the tablet and smartphone market so far, with immense sales in both categories; compared to its Windows counterparts.
However, Microsoft Windows is synonymous with desktop computers across all major brands and assembled versions, besides laptops and netbooks. Windows rules the desktop market, controlling over 70 percent of the market.
A revamped Metro UI on the Windows 8 aids better customisation and smartphone-like app experience. Meanwhile, Apple's unchanged custom UI across platforms will impress its fans with a unified platform experience, giving them a sense of originality.
Overall, considering the market size and growth, Microsoft holds an edge over Apple with prior worldwide dominance. The latter's dominance is limited to the US and China only.
However, the Cupertino company might just turn it around in the coming years.