It would seem hard for any logical person to see the statements Apple made about Windows Vista and Windows 7 today, and think they were not anything but hypocritical.
In case you missed it during the WWDC keynote today, Bertrand Serlet, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at Apple, took the stage to introduce Apple's newest operating system version, Mac OS X "Snow Leopard", version 10.6. In his introduction, he took a swipe at Microsoft and Windows Vista. Not surprising, considering the majority of the company's advertising budget for OS X seems to be focused on that very thing. It's also not surprising because it is generally acknowledged by the technology community (and even those outside it) that Windows Vista was a flop.
But, it wasn't enough to take a swipe at Vista. Serlet decided to key us all into what is perhaps Apple's new spin on Windows 7... that it has "even more complexity" than Vista. Why? Because it's based on the "same old tech as Vista." Basically, they've gone out of their way (and I think will continue to do so), to try and label Windows 7 as "Windows Vista 2.0"
Maybe. It's true that Windows 7 is based on the same code tree and technologies as Windows Vista. Just like Windows Vista was based on Windows XP, and that was based on Windows 2000, and Windows NT 4, etc, etc. What was Apple expecting Microsoft to do, drop everything and code a brand new operating system and drop support for the millions of devices and software in the Windows eco-system? Sure, you can do that kind of stuff if you're Apple, kind of like what they did between Mac OS 9 and OS X 10.0. If memory serves, that didn't go so well for them right off the bat, but it was fixed by the time OS X 10.1 came around. If you're Microsoft, that isn't exactly the kind of thing you do when you have 90%+ of the desktop operating system market either. Remember when they tried doing a little bit of that with Vista... see where that got them?
But, I digress. We're not just here to talk about Windows 7 vs Windows Vista. We've not really reached the hypocrisy of Apple's statement yet. Their keynote has just started. We have to get into the introduction of OS X 10.6 to see that.
The fact that Mac OS X 10.6 is called "Snow Leopard" should be the first indication something is not right. Most techies know that Apple codenames their OS X after wild cats. First came "Cheetah" (10), then "Puma" (10.1), "Jaguar" (10.2), "Panther" (10.3), "Tiger" (10.4) and "Leopard" (10.5) -- Probably some type of sort of allusion to cats being fast, or aggressive, or something... I'm sure someone with more knowledge into the inner-workings of Apple can explain their naming logic better than I can. But the point is, with each one of these releases, Apple had enough distinction between the versions that it was a different animal.
With 10.6, it's just "Snow Leopard." 10.5 was "Leopard," 10.6 is "Snow Leopard." It's the same animal, only one hangs out in the snow.
(Interesting fact I learned while researching this article. According to Wikipedia, real snow leopards cannot roar. They lack some features in their larynx that other big cats have. Seems fitting.)
The reason why it's just "Snow Leopard" and not something new like "Lion" is because it's a refinement of the technologies in "Leopard" 10.5. Apple will admit this, they actually talked about it in the keynote. In fact, on the Apple website they say that "Snow Leopard" is "Refined, not reinvented." For the most part, it looks the same. If you look at a screenshot of 10.5 vs 10.6, it generally looks the same. Sure there are new features and some interface improvements, but there is no drastic modification to the interaction with the operating system.
"Snow Leopard" does make some big improvements under the hood. As was stated in the keynote this morning, they have refined 90% of Leopard. Finder has been rewritten, Safari is faster, hardware accelerated Quicktime, better searching, Exchange integration and better 64-bit software support. Despite what some have said, it is a new operating system. I don't mean to in anyway disparage the work that Apple has done because it is a new big release and not just a service pack.
Just in the way that Windows 7 is an improvement from Windows Vista. Yet, somehow when Microsoft does it, it's different?
I also applaud Apple for offering Snow Leopard as an upgrade for only $29 to Leopard users. They must have seen the news that Microsoft would be offering Windows 7 upgrades for far less than "normal" ($49) and decided they should do the same. In such a tough economic time it's good to see the price reflect the market a bit.
Apple may have seen the news about Windows 7 pricing, and acted accordingly, but that may have been the only thing they've been reading about Windows 7. Perhaps they missed the part about it having far better performance than Windows Vista, or how Microsoft did nearly the same thing Apple did... went back and "refined" (to use Apple language) the parts of Windows that needed work. The fact that Windows 7 runs better on lower end hardware then Vista did, should be an indication that they've done a good job of speeding up overall performance.
Apple also made a big point in saying that they've cut the initial install size of the operating system by 6GB. That's an impressive amount of space, I will admit. In all honesty it amazes me how large operating systems have become. There is a lot of things that are in a default Windows install (any version) that could probably use some cleaning. But, the reason why they were able to reduce the size is partly due to the fact that they have cut support for Power PC hardware with 10.6. I'd be angry if they didn't decrease the size of the operating system when they dropped all the code that was no longer needed to support all that legacy hardware.
That is, unless you're still using a Power PC.
No, I don't expect Apple to support "old" hardware forever. Except, it's really not that old. The first Intel Macs were released in January 2006. The last Power PC Macs were sold in August 2006. That wasn't even three years ago. The switch happened in between version 10.4 and 10.5 of Mac OS X and right around the same time Windows Vista was released.
Could you imagine the outcry from the technology community if Microsoft told customers that they couldn't upgrade from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7? Or worse yet, that the hardware they purchased right at the end of life for Windows XP, was not able to run Windows 7 at all!? Not just that it would run it slowly, it won't run it at all!? People would be lighting torches and grabbing pitch forks to storm the gates of Redmond. But yet, a version and a half later, Apple can drop support for an entire fleet of systems. I guess that's something you can do when you control hardly 10% of the market, and have fiercely loyal users who buy new hardware all the time. I guess all that support for an entire library of devices and software is what Apple considers "even more complexity."
So, to recap, Microsoft has increased support for lower end or older hardware with Windows 7, and Apple has dropped it all together with "Snow Leopard".
Again, Apple deserves credit for the work they've done with "Snow Leopard" -- while I have not seen it myself, those who have tell me it is faster and has a lot of nice new features. It is "refined" as Apple says. Just like Windows 7 is faster and more refined than Vista.
Apple has a product that in some ways is superior to Windows, that does not have many of the problems that plague the Windows ecosystem. Apple can get away with a lot more than Microsoft can in terms of dropping support for older devices. But Apple needs to learn how to promote their technologies on their own merits, instead of acting like the pretty girl in high school that lobs insults at the ugly one to make itself feel better.