As you may or may not know Snow Leopard (Mac OS 10.6) was released on August 28th. Windows 7 is due out officially on October 22. both of these operating systems are marketed as “fixing” or “refining” their predecessors. Snow Leopard is introducing new technologies that will propel Mac OS further to 10.7 and possibly OS XI. Windows 7 is essentially what Vista should have been and as does Snow Leopard sets Microsoft up to innovate with Windows 8.
Leopard was slower than Tiger but compensated by adding “300 new features” which weren’t exactly all that useful. Leopard was also larger than Tiger in terms of its disk footprint. Leopard works fine for the most part if you have at least 2GB ram. There were also a few little annoyances dropped in with things like disk ejection and network communication with Windows based PCs (Samba). Prime example being that disk ejection would take a long time and sometimes after a large file copy over the network, the file wouldn’t arrive on the other machine. Almost two years later Leopard works for the majority of people and even if there were problems they weren’t be heard due to the Mac culture as it exists.
Vista on the other hand was absolutely painful in the beginning if you were upgrading from a Windows XP based computer with older hardware. People who bought new desktops and laptops didn’t feel that pain as their hardware had drivers provided. Since the launch of Windows Vista the user experience got progressively better. Vista like Snow Leopard needed 2GB memory to be useful in any “fun” way, sometimes more. Vista also added features and made a substantial UI change just like Leopard did. Windows Vista became a marketing nightmare for Microsoft even though it wasn’t that bad, hence why we’re where we are right now – Windows 7.
The pricing for the Windows 7 Upgrade assuming you have Vista Home Premium or XP Home was initially $59USD. This special offer program has since ended and the price is back to the usual $119.99USD. The price during the promo period for Professional was $99USD and has since increased to $199.99USD. If for some reason you need the full version of Windows 7 Home Premium that will run you $199.99USD (Pro is $299.99USD and Ultimate is $319.99USD). Microsoft also offers a 5 user family pack upgrade for $159.99USD.
Looking over to Snow Leopard the “upgrade” price is $29USD, though you can use the upgrade disk to install a full version. For $49USD you can get a Mac OS Family Pack which allows it to be installed on up to 5 machines. As it should be there is only one version of the operating systems that consumers will buy.
Comparing the pricing of the two operating systems it’s clear why they are priced at their respective price points. Windows 7 is a semi-major update with respect to user experience enhancements. With this being said it would have been a nice gesture by Microsoft to maintain the reduced upgrade pricing for Windows 7 as an apology over the whole Vista nightmare. Snow Leopard’s primary focus is core technologies that the user will never see. Snow Leopard’s changes add up to something along the lines of a service pack. One can reasonably assume that the reason that Snow Leopard was released as its own system is that the changes are too large to be rolled into the OS without a reinstall.
Whether or not you should upgrade your operating system to the newer version depends on a variety of situations. Everyone who feels comfortable installing Windows should upgrade to Windows 7 if they are on Vista. If your primary operating system is Windows XP and your hardware is rather old it might be worthwhile to research whether or not your hardware is strong enough to run Windows 7. Windows 7 offers an increase in performance compared to that of Vista. Windows 7 also updates user interfaces to be slightly more “simple” though there are still a few little issues. In a nutshell, Windows 7 is an upgraded version of Vista with minor UI changes and increased performance. Henceforth, the performance aspect is the biggest reason to move to 7.
Upgrading to Snow Leopard is an entirely different story. The upgrade is easy, the easiest it’s ever been. The real question to be asked is what benefits will you get? If you are running a somewhat modern machine (approximately within a year old) there is no question that you should upgrade as you will see the most benefit. If you’re running a machine that’s somewhat older (about 2 years) your mileage will vary. If you’re running anything that’s not a Core 2 Duo model you won’t see any benefit. The primary benefits will come from OpenCL, Grand Central Dispatch (GCD), and a re-written Finder. OpenCL allows the operating system to use power from the graphics card in order to enable applications to move certain tasks over to the graphics card for completion. Grand Central Dispatch brings multi-thread handling to OS X, something that Windows has had for a while. Because these technologies are new many applications won’t implement them until their next version. A quick note about the re-written Finder: it’s nice, it feels snappier than before, and network access is also faster. In the end a Snow Leopard upgrade may be warranted if you have a modern computer or are having problems with Leopard.
I hope this has helped you make up your mind as to whether or not you are going to upgrade your operating system to the next version whether it be Windows 7 or Snow Leopard. I have been using Windows 7 since its beta release and intend to install the full version when it’s available. The reason being for me is that Windows XP is old. Windows XP is fast and still works but it lacks modern conveniences that I’ve come to depend on in both Mac OS and Windows 7. I’ve upgraded to Snow Leopard primarily because of the low cost. The real benefit that I’ve seen is that Finder is quicker for me and I can actually depend on networking between Snow Leopard and our Windows PCs. Finally, if you have any questions or ideas for future articles please send me a pm on the forums.