The big computer news this week is the release of Apple’s “Leopard” operating system. So every tech journalist is dutifully stacking it up against the underwhelming release of Windows Vista earlier this year. But at this point does the OS really mean anything to anyone? Having spent a year with a computer running both Windows XP and Tiger I can say for certain that the features of the OS make no difference to me. They both are no more or less than a way to run applications. They both run them with a minimum of fuss. The user interfaces to me are essentially interchangeable. One has a dock, one has a taskbar. On my Windows keyboard, one uses the Ctrl button for most keyboard commands, the other uses the Alt key. All the other differences make no difference to my productivity or happiness. I run Tiger for Final Cut Studio, and XP for everything else. And lately the majority of my days are spent using Firefox, which is the same in every operating system.
Don’t get me wrong. In the past, operating systems have made huge differences in my productivity. Does anyone remember how horrendous the Mac OS was right before OS X? It might have been groundbreaking in 1984, but compared to Windows 98 it was junk. Windows 98 was not so hot itself. Windows XP was a real step forward in stability, if nothing else. But what is Vista going to get me that XP doesn’t do for me now? I installed the 64-bit version of XP when I first bought this 64-bit computer, but it was too much hassle to track down new 64-bit drivers for everything, and Avid Xpress Pro didn’t run on it, which was the real deal breaker. So I’m still running the 32-bit version and it’s just great. Vista sounds like just another hassle for no apparent benefit. Leopard probably wouldn’t be a hassle, but I don’t think it’s going to wow me once I’m forced to upgrade when Apple decides that FCP can’t run in Tiger anymore.