We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,259 News Articles

Linux, Mac OS X, Vista and XP: head-to-head

Operating systems at war - but who wins?

When it comes to an OS, what should you choose? Each of the four biggest players; Linux, Mac OS X, Windows Vista and Windows XP all have their merits. So we've taken four experts and asked them to defend their chosen operating systems in an opinionated free-for-all.

Windows XP: The people's choice

David Ramel

The people have spoken. Windows XP rules.

Forget, for a moment, Mac OS X and Linux with their puny 8 percent combined market share. First, just consider how the ‘upgrade’ from XP to Windows Vista is going.

Microsoft gamely touts increasing Vista adoption, but the backlash against XP's successor is unprecedented. I would call it a near-disaster. When was the last time a petition was circulated that gathered more than 100,000 signatures to save an operating system?

Dell has caved in to customer demand and reversed its Vista-only policy for many of its computers. Earlier, Dell had pointed out to Microsoft several mistakes made with the Vista rollout, including confusing marketing, broken drivers, hardware compatibility issues and other problems, according to a class-action lawsuit about Vista marketing.

Internal documents brought to light in the lawsuit show that Microsoft officials themselves dissed Vista shortly after its release.

I could go on and on, listing articles about tests showing that XP is faster than Vista at some tasks, explaining to anxious users how to make XP last for seven more years and instructing frustrated Vista users how to downgrade from Vista. See a common thread there?

Security

Security has always been the favourite criticism of Microsoft operating systems in general, but Service Pack 2 vastly improved the safety of XP, with better network protection, memory protection, improved email security and safer browsing.

And do you really think Mac OS and Linux will be any safer if they gain enough market share to become relevant and get the full attention of hackers?

All the features you need

Of course, Microsoft will eventually force the migration to Vista. But for right now, you will get several Vista features, such as Network Access Protection, in the upcoming XP Service Pack 3. Other Vista components available for XP include Media Center, Internet Explorer 7.0, Media Player 11 and Windows Defender.

And there are plenty of sites that tell you how to get or at least simulate other Vista features in XP.

Mac or Linux - why bother?

I use Mac OS X occasionally and have dabbled in Linux, and I've found nothing that makes me want to switch to either. Even if I liked Macs, which I don't for mostly subjective reasons, there's got to be a good reason they have such a pathetic presence in the enterprise.

The operating system is okay, but as with most things from the Apple tree, it seems to be more about style than substance. Sure, it's cool when you hover over the little icons at the bottom of the screen and they get bigger. But take a look at those icons: iTunes, iPhoto, iDVD, Garage Band, etc. It's clear whom Apple is targeting, and it's not the run-of-the-mill cubicle stiff like me who's just trying to get work done.

The proprietary software/hardware marriage, the higher cost and the extra training needed all detract from the Mac's allure - unless you have funky facial hair and say, "Dude!" a lot.

As for Linux, I've been hearing it's 'ready for the desktop' for years now. Well, it's not ready. It's getting better (market share doubled recently to almost 1 percent) but there are too many distros, packages, ISOs, GNUs, Gnomes, awks, GREPs, flavors, kernels, KDEs, licenses and modules.

In other words, it's still too techie. It might be fine if you're the type of person who used to type 'debug' in the DOS command line to make hexadecimal changes to standard operating system messages just for fun, like I did long ago. But I don't have time for that anymore.

I recently installed Ubuntu Linux successfully, though I found the partitioning choices a bit confusing. But to simply play an MP3 file, I had to download and install a separate package. Wireless connectivity was a joke. Absolutely ridiculous.

NEXT PAGE: The bottom line when it comes to XP

  1. We put Linux, Mac OS X, Windows Vista and Windows XP: head-to-head
  2. Why Linux is best
  3. Linux: clean, friendly and powerful interfaces
  4. Apple's attention to detail
  5. The security features of Mac OS X
  6. Vista's tweakability and extras
  7. Why Vista beats other operating systems hands down
  8. XP's security features
  9. The bottom line when it comes to XP


IDG UK Sites

Best January sales 2015 UK tech deals LIVE: Best New Year bargains and savings on phones, tablets,...

IDG UK Sites

Chromebooks: ready for the prime time (but not for everybody)

IDG UK Sites

2015 visual trends: 20 leading designers & artists reveal what should be inspiring us in 2015

IDG UK Sites

Mac tips tricks & hacks: 10 things you didn't know your Mac could do