With the Help of Apple, Windows Gets Another Reprieve

Apple has been very clever in the release of its new Macs. They are creating a PR perfect storm:1)release of astoundingly good quarterly results with annual sales rates now dwarfing Microsofts and many of the other IT pindustry players like Dell, IBM, and HP,  2)annoucment of the new Mac laptops and MacMini with first hints of Apple being willing to compete with PC’s on  price , 3)release of new Mac Lion OS with closer ties to iPads and iPhones and iOS.
First, congratulations are due to Apple for a blow out quarter, again befuddling the Wall Street experts. Apple has easily eclipsed its once great rival Microsoft and all the other major IT firms  in both revenues and earnings. It is on its way to becoming the largest company in stock market value,  outpacing Exxon-Mobil.

Second, the MacBook Air  has all the look, styling, and lightness of  the slim and trim iPhone or iPad. And there are even suggestions that at $599, the Mac Mini is in position to take on PCs in a place that Apple has long abandoned to Microsoft PCs=> price. So lets take a look at the specs of  the new MacMini against a comparably priced Windows 7 PC.

Apple MacMini – the new low cost Mac entry?

Description Apple MacMini Acer All-in-one Win7 PC
Price $599 $649
OS Mac OS/X Lion Windows 7 Home Premium
Display None 21.5″ 1920 x 1080 pixel
Display Tech No multi-touch 16:9 Multi-touch screen 16:9
Graphics card IntelX3000 HD Intel X4500HD
CPU Intel Core2 2.3GHz –2.30PM Pentium Core2 6700 3.2GHz – 2.17PM
Memory 2GB RAM 4GB RAM
DiskDrive 0.5TB 5400rpm 1TB 5400rpm
DVD None 8x DVD+RW
Keyboard+Mouse Neither Both wireless
Connectors 4USB 6USB
Ethernet Thunderbolt Gigabit
WiFi IEEE 802.11/b/g/n IEEE 802.11/b/g/n
TV connector HDMI HDMI
memory cards SDXC SDXC plus 6 other
Webcam None 1MPixel front facing
Audio jacks Audio In and Out Audio In and Out
Microphone+Speaker Microphone Both

So for $50 less in price, a marginally better CPU, but a superior Mac OS/X one gives away over $500 dollars in additional hardware costs. But also there are software costs. The number of programs/apps available including high quality Open Source software is  nearly 8 to 1 in favor of Windows. Finally Mac OS/X Lion still does not support multi-touch screen operations – a big productivity disadvantage despite Apple’s claim that “arms get tired”[Not with ergonomic sliding screens, stylus pens, and availability of keyboard short cuts  in Ye Editors experience – multi-touch screen PCs desktops are a real winner in the All-in-one form factor].

The same problems plagues the new line of MacBook Air laptops. No optical DVD/CD drives, fewer ports, less memory and disk space. But the biggest disappointment in the new Mac OS/X Lion is its failure to support multi-touch screen operations [Steve has MagicPad for you instead] and the deprecation of Java on Macs[Java is already verboten on iOS] and open hostility towards Flash. The latter two decisions make Macs even less open than Windows where developers find these cross platform development tools thriving.

The Apple Reprieves for Windows

Ye Editor is no admirer of Windows – Vista and Windows 7 continues to be a blight on personal computing. At their inflated prices and treacherous monpolistic software practices, Redmond have sucked all the profits and innovation out of the consumer and business PC markets in both software and hardware[venture capitalists have long had a “what do you in the case of Redmond” high hurdle for their funding]. And the performance of Windows in security, reliability and efficient use of memory and hard disk space is anywhere from lagging to downright awful in comparison to Linux and  Mac OS/X.

So ye Editor has been  wondering why Apple has been charging 2-3 times more for Macs than for the equivalently equipped PC. When the uproar over Vista occurred all Apple had to do was charge the same price as a PC for a “Make it a Mac” one time promotion. Apple had the cash and could have easily taken  a huge chunk of market share such that savvy  businesses would have taken note and switched to Macs for much better security and more efficient use of hardware. This has been Steve J’s continuing-to-this-day Reprieve No 1  for Steve B.

Now in the rush to mobile computing, the three most important key features are: [in ranked order]: 1)intuitive operation using multi-touch gesturess, 2)light weight and 3)long battery life. Now the rush is on among laptop makers to answer the 2) and 3)features as seen in the MacBook Air and the collection of slimline PC laptops lead by Lenovo and Samsung among others. But again, Steve J. is providing another reprieve to Steve B. and his very late Windows 8. Multi-touch gestures have been banned from Mac OS/X screens, users can only use clumsy magic pads despite the speed and productivity advantages of multi-touch  direct screen  manipulations especially for DTP, graphics, and Web and media creation/development tasks. The advantage of stylus and keyboard assisted multi-touch screen operations in Web and graphics is surpassing and its a mystery as to why Steve J. wants to deny Apple Mac OS/X users the choice.

Ye Editor would be a Mac user many years ago if a) Apple had cut its prices to within 20-30% of PCs or b)had brought multi-touch screen operations to Mac OS/X. So Linux plus Windows XP and 7 dominate the shop. And worldwide by  a margin of 3 to 1 , PCs dominate Macs. Case closed.

Will Windows 8 Be Able To Take Advantage of The Reprieve?

There is an awful lot in Windows 8 that is behind closed doors still. How much will it merge with Windows 7 Phone? Mango appears to imply a lot. Will an ARM-based PC be equivalent to an Intel based PC in running software or will it have unique special features? Will Intel programs run on ARM processors and how well? Will they have to be recompiled? Will Windows  address some of the memory utilization problems of Windows 7  et alia. Will it be secure?

Ye Editor has a large dose of skepticism based on three observations. First, the last time out for a major revision of Windows  was the Vista disaster. That barely beta software with its perverse pricing and confusing versions destroyed forever the illusion that Microsoft valued its customers satisfaction above all else. To date, Apple has managedd to retain that branding but recent monopolistic practices in the iOS arena and the failure to bring multi-touch screens to Macs, the ugly treatment of Flash, the deprecation of Java raise serious warning signs. But Apple and Google have been able to do one thing that Microsoft’s vaunted developer teams have not: deliver software in an agile manner. Apple is on a 6 month or yearly cycle for much of its software. Google with Android is on an even more ambitious development cycle of every 4-6 months with significant upgrades. Windows 8 is on a 5 year cycle; IE on a 2 year cycle that the company is trying to cut to 1 year or less and major Office software now fracturing into PC,  ARM, Cloud and Web versions will be on who knows what cycle?

Finally there is the matter of  “third time charm”. For significant introductions of software, Microsoft at times can rely too much on delivering in stages alpha++, beta and then finally the real deal. Will Windows 8 with its long 5 years gestation be subject to the same phenomena ? Microsoft cites its long and widespread benchmarks and public betas plus  rigorous  testing regimes. In 6-9 months we shall see if Microsoft has been able to successfully take advantage of the latest reprieve from Apple.