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OS Battle: Windows 8 versus Mac OS X Lion

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By Louis Ramirez, dealnews senior feature writer

The Mac versus PC debate is about to heat up again. Both Microsoft and Apple have next-generation operating systems in the works, and while both companies will borrow heavily from their respective mobile platforms, it's Microsoft that's taking the bigger gamble. So how well does Windows 8 stack up with OS X Lion, and does Windows 8 have what it takes to win over new users (and keep current users from switching)? We compare a few key features to find out.

Interface
As far as extreme makeovers go, it's Windows 8 that will be turning the most heads at the next party. Gone: the Start button, taskbar and traditional Windows desktop. In its place is a mosaic-like wall made up of multi-colored widgets/tiles. Each widget will display live information on individual apps, giving the homescreen a grid-like appearance. (Alternatively, users will still be able to revert to the traditional Windows desktop if desired.) We're intrigued by the look of the new OS, but we can't help but wonder how users will respond to the new desktop, which at least in previews appears to be text-heavy.

Apple's home screen, on the other hand, won't undergo any jolting changes. Instead, a new Launchpad feature will swap your traditional home screen for a full-screen view of all of your apps (very similar to the home screen of an iPad or iPhone/iPod touch). Navigating multiple desktops will also be smoother thanks to the new Mission Control feature, which gives you a bird's eye view of every open app and window on your Mac.
Winner: Lion.
Microsoft's new UI will require that everyone reacquaint themselves with Windows. We're not sure a complete overhaul is the best approach for any OS.

Gesture support
Apple has supported multi-touch gestures on its laptops for quite some time, and Lion will expand on that support with new gestures it claims are more fluid and intuitive. These gestures will work on a Mac laptop, but desktops will require Apple's Magic Trackpad.

Microsoft is approaching gesture support differently. Since Windows 8 was designed with both desktops and tablets in mind, it'll feature native touchscreen support, so you'll be able to navigate Windows 8 on your desktop the same as you would on a tablet. The catch is, you'll need a touch-sensitive monitor to take advantage of these gestures. For those who don't own such a monitor, Microsoft assures us Windows 8 will work perfectly fine with a keyboard and mouse.
Winner: Lion
Microsoft is blurring the line between its desktop OS and tablet OS. However, we believe people use devices differently. We like our tablet OS to remain on tablets. In addition, not everyone owns (or can afford to upgrade to) a touchscreen monitor.

App Store
Despite Apple's best efforts to trademark the use of the term "App Store," Microsoft's next OS will have a built-in app store of some kind. However, Microsoft is being tight-lipped with details of its forthcoming storefront. In the meantime, Apple's App Store (which is already available on OS X Snow Leopard) will be more tightly integrated with Lion. In fact, Apple will only sell Lion as a download via the App Store.
Winner: Lion
Microsoft has been slow in integrating a digital storefront into its OS. Even with the announcement of Windows 8, Microsoft is still not sharing many details. This, in turn, has given Apple a solid head start in the App Store race.

Conclusion
Based on its previews, Windows 8 will be a radical departure from the Windows OS we've all grown used to. And while many features can change in the next few months, we can't help but feel that Windows 8 is being designed more for tablets than it is for desktops. Apple, on the other hand, is taking the safe route with Mac OS X Lion, bringing some of the best features of iOS 4 straight to the desktop — a move that many people already expected, and one that we think is closer to the future of desktop computing.



An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter — @LouisRamirez. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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14 comments
dlibertin
CHANGES means FEARS.
Some people have got so rooted in the old that they are afraid of change and when it happends they have to rationalize and resist it. Maybe it is true that you can't teach new tricks to an old dog.
Troy De Ville
I don't think any of these people use Linux!
Troy De Ville
What do you have to learn? Saying you have to learn Linux is like saying you have to learn to drive a pickup truck when you are use to driving a car. It's different but not alien or something. Linux Mint or Ubuntu can be picked up really quick.
vt1991
I am sure this same genius author (he won't get the sarcasm, because he seems to be an Apple fanboy, but the rest of us know I mean the opposite of genius) will oooh and aaaah when Steve Jobs presents a similar touch interface for the desktop in two years.  Steve will say that he invented touch interface for the desktop and he will gleefully applaud that.
Ross
I understand Vista got off to a rocky start, but I think that much of it was from 3rd party Mfg's not cooperating with Vista's new underlying structure.  It was different than XP and would require completely new drivers, for example, to be written.  So once Mfg's broke down and started supporting Vista then things got better.  This ultimately helped Win 7.  Vista just ended up being the fall-guy and whipping boy for Win 7.  All I can totally speak of is my personal experience.  I've had Vista since Spring '08 and I've loved it ever since.
alpard78
Mmm, honestly, Louis Ramirez (this article's author) seems completely biased towards Apple.
Give us a break and be more neutral in your reviews. They always bash Windows and Microsoft for not being "trendy" or having breakthroughs but when they do they still get bashed.
I guess it's just natural now to do it. Apple stuff is good but I am sick and tired to see EVERYTHING compared to Apple. They're not perfect.
95m3ltw
I was a beta tester for Vista for about a year before it was released, going through 3 different builds and the final release.   Vista earned its bashing, while you are right in that many people started bashing Vista without EVER using it, they were still right in their bashing!    Microsoft knew they had a turd based solely on the beta feedback.   Win7 was a welcomed fix for Vista, I especially like Win7 since older machines that could handle XP but not Vista run Win7 with no problems or required upgrades. 
Kyser_Soze
The reason a comparison of these OS's is not fair is because Mac's OS is not for sale as a stand-alone OS, it is bundled with hardware. The variety of hardware Windows must work with makes it far superior. One of the most asked questions at shopping sites that allow comments is: "Is it Mac compatible?", and quite often the answer is NO. It is very entertaining watching Mac users try to use the Windows computers at work though!
Ross
I'm so tired of people bashing Vista.  Especially those who have never really used it.  It's almost like it became fashionable and trendy to knock Vista.  I've had extensive use of both XP and Vista.  Vista (my primary OS) running over 3 years strong with no problems.  If I had to choose, I'd take Vista over XP any day.
Ross
There tends to be a Apple product bias with these articles.  See the "Mac vs. Pc" hyperlink at the top of this article too.  I really don't think Microsoft/PC's are getting a fair shake here.  As a PC/Windows power user, I can make strong arguments in favor of PC's (in both articles) for just about ever "key feature" listed.  While I understand it might not be possible, it would be best to have two writers from each side weigh in on the feature list.
ethanvyce
I wonder if MS is taking a chance on 8 since 7 is still relatively new and people can opt for that version. Though I guess if they include the option to use old style we can use that also. I wonder how many people switch to Mac when Vista came out since that was terrible. I just kept chugging away with XP until 7 was released. if Vista didn't drive you away from Windows nothing will.
SavingFreak
Once again none of this matters.  As long as Mac keeps the system closed their computers will be priced out of the marketplace for a majority of users.  The real comparison should be between Windos and Chrome
Jeremybigred
Speaking of Linux, can you share a similar review of the Fedora/Gnome 3 vs. Ubuntu/Unity operating systems?
jeremybro
Guess I need to learn Linux...
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