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Vista beats OS X? Really?

ComputerWorld's Preston Gralla posted a blog entry titled, Five reasons why Vista beats Mac OS X. Clearly, this was link-bait, but you know what, I'll bite.
And although I vehemently disagree with the post's title and assertion, I want to make it clear that I'm not coming at this from the typical rabid Mac-fangirl stance. Until August of last year, I still used a PC as my primary computer (I used Macs at school and for creative work); I used to work as a PC technician. In our TUAW backchannel chat, I'm usually the first person to take the "don't knee-jerkingly attack the PC" stance.

Still, it was impossible to read the post and NOT respond. Let's take a look at Mr. Gralla's arguments and dissect them one-by-one.

1. Vista runs more software

This is unequivocally true, but also unequivocally misleading. Is more software, free and commercial, available for Windows Vista than OS X? Yes, without a doubt. Even more software is available for Windows XP than Vista. But is software ever really about quantity over quality? It shouldn't be. As a long time Windows user, I was pleasantly surprised at not only the number of programs available for Mac, but the number of high quality programs from independent software developers that were free or inexpensive.

The real crux of Gralla's argument seems to be centered around the idea of enterprise software -- and clearly, most corporate environments are running in a Windows world -- well, a Windows XP world. To make the argument that Vista runs more enterprise software than OS X is kind of laughable. Especially given the low adoption rates of Vista among big corporate clients. I have a friend at a large technology consulting firm (one of the largest, actually) who works closely with Microsoft in developing proprietary software for a very, very big client. They don't use Windows Vista on their machines -- they use XP. Employees can install Vista on their company laptops -- but most advise against it, because there are too many incompatibilities with the existing infrastructure. This is true even after Vista SP 1.

Furthermore, Galla argues that virtualization solutions like VMWare Fusion or Parallels causes more problems than solutions. Again, this is absolutely laughable in an enterprise environment, where most IT departments are using some form of VMWare anyway. Making the argument that Parallels can't play Solitaire on a Windows VM because of its lack of DirectX 9 support ignores the fact that VMWare Fusion can and does play Solitaire (and Free Cell and Hearts) very, very well. I know because I play Free Cell while waiting for my VM of Windows XP to download endless Windows Updates every time I open up Fusion to test something for DownloadSquad or hack away at my BlackBerry. Additionally, Microsoft has altered its licensing language in regards to virtual machines and Windows Vista -- making it clear that you can now install Vista on a Mac and get the same support you would otherwise.

That's just the corporate argument. Gralla doesn't address the consumer market. I'm a software nerd, especially for obscure and geeky utilities that serve little or no purpose for anyone outside a very select sector of users. Other than converting my insanely large .PST databases from my decade of Outlook usage, I have yet to come across anything that I have had to do on a PC (or in VMWare) in the eight months since I "went Mac" full-time. Ever since the Intel switch, the software argument is really, really weak, enterprise or not.

2. Vista is safer

Yeah, OK. Keep telling yourself that. I mean, I'm not going to be one of those people that claims that the Mac is more secure than it really is -- like all Operating Systems, it has its vulnerabilities -- but come on! The only argument Gralla can even make is to pull a quote from some guy saying the code from Vista looks better than the Code from OS X 10.4. Yeah, I would hope an OS shipped in 2007 had better built-in security than one that shipped in 2005...

Compare Vista to OS X 10.5, then get back to us. I see the trends in safeguarding computers becoming less and less OS dependent and more and more consumer focussed. Getting people to willingly install scripts or programs that can put information at risk is something that is not an OS-specific flaw -- it's a human flaw. I will say that Mac users need to be educated about what to trust and what not to trust, the same way Windows users have been conditioned for years -- but as far as what OS is more "secure" -- the BSD base of OS X has certainly proved itself over the years and to say otherwise is just a staggering example of either stupidity or arrogance.

3. It's the money, stupid

Oh, right, right -- the whole "Macs cost too much" argument. Granted, we Mac users pay a premium for our shiny white Apple logo. I'll be the first to admit I paid the Black Tax to get my BlackBook. However, to pretend like those options and premiums don't exist for PC users are laughable. First, let's talk about extra software that has to be purchased off the bat -- let's just say $150, and that's a low figure (I used to sell computer systems as well as repair them, I'm well versed in the mark-up add-on strategy that you will see with ANY $400 computer) -- oh, and would you like to get all the crapware off your system? Sure, that'll be another $29.99 if you do it in-store, or $50 if you pay Sony to do it (and VAIO charges the exact same premium that Apple does for laptops and desktops -- the only reason my last VAIO wasn't a less expensive PowerBook was because I needed Windows at the time and it as pre-Intel).

Let's also look at how much you can spend getting stuff to actually work. My mom has a very, very nice HP wireless printer. The thing was a PITA to set-up (though that was better than the first model she got -- that one is sitting in a box in my father's office because I have serious nightmares about configuring it, because doing it the first time was such a disaster that even the highest-level HP tech I got on the phone with admitted to me that it scared him too) and I have to reconfigure it every time Windows delivers and update and that breaks something in the firewall with the wireless printer. My MacBook connected to it instantly on the network, installed the necessary drivers, less the software cruft and was printing in minutes. Same hardware. Different results.

Also keep in mind that the vast majority of computer repairs are software, not hardware related. If the software you have works better, runs more smoothly, is more stable -- the chances that you have to call someone like me to visit your house (or bring it into a shop) and pay $60 an hour for diagnosis and repair are greatly, greatly depreciated.

When I budgeted for my current computer, I still wasn't 100% sure I was going Mac -- it was certainly leaning that way, but I wasn't sure. At the time I configured my laptop, it was the same price as an identically configured Lenovo, with the same discounts applied. And adding RAM or a larger hard drive is no more expensive for the Mac than for a PC. I could have had a much cheaper laptop -- but that was never a consideration even if the Mac question wasn't part of the equation. For many consumers, they want something that will last more than a year. For a one-year purchase, a $600 PC is fine -- but if you want to keep something around for a while, the price point is going to be almost exactly the same Windows or Mac.

4. The Mac is closed; Vista is open

Continuing in the same vein as the above argument, Gralla argues that you can't build your own Mac, like you can with a PC. Again, this is true -- and for certain sectors, this is a definite detriment. However, as someone who used to always build my own computers (save laptops), I have come around to enjoying not building my own machine from scratch. Don't get me wrong, for certain projects it is a TON of fun -- and I learned more about computers and software and hardware by building and taking apart my own machines than almost anything else; having said that, the main reason lots of people build their own computers is because they want them to work reliably. The components used in many big-name systems are awful and often not up to spec. You don't end up saving any more building your own dream system than if you had it configured some place else.

With Apple, the components verifiably work with the OS and the software. That's pretty huge -- especially since Vista is still a dog for DIYers wanting to configure their own machine. Oh, and let's talk about price again -- price out all the parts for building your own entry-level MacPro. You will end up encroaching on $2700 US, and you'll have to deal with getting everything to work with Vista. Or you could get a MacPro, that is upgradable, is configurable, and know that it will work with OS X beautifully and also work with Vista or XP or any flavor of Linux you want to try.

In terms of actual open/closed software, both Microsoft and Apple speak out both sides of their mouths. But Darwin, WebKit, Bonjour are just some of the Open Source projects that Apple has either developed or greatly contributes to. Windows? Yeah, not so much.

Plus, the MacMini and iPhone communities are both great examples of the level of creativity and configurability that exists in the Mac community. If you are building your own computer, you aren't looking for official support anyway -- voiding the warranty is part of the fun. You can tweak out your iMac or you MacBook in amazing ways. Overclocking is so 2003 anyway.

5. Two words -- Steve Jobs

Two words: Steve Ballmer.

I mean, how can you even respond to that. Bill Gates is my personal hero -- but every significant figure in the computer industry has some latent (or not so latent) tendencies to go for the jugular. That's business. Using that as a reason Vista is better than OS X is just as sad as writing the article in the first place.

ComputerWorld's Preston Gralla posted a blog entry titled, Five reasons why Vista beats Mac OS X. Clearly, this was link-bait, but you know...