Panther increasingly running ahead of the OS pack
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First
published in Business
May 18-24, 2004; issue #760, High Tech Office column
The Windows world is on hold, with Microsoft's next-generation Longhorn
replacement for 2001's Windows XP not expected until some time in 2006.
Meanwhile, over in Apple-land, Macintosh users are already well into
their next generation. The company's dramatically different OS X is
over three years old, and its Panther 10.3 version represents its
fourth major revision. OS X broke with Apple's legacy operating system
code, replacing it with a more stable, more secure Unix base. But while
Unix has rightly been known as system software only a dedicated
computer user could love, Apple has covered it over with Aqua, a
colourful user interface that lets mere mortals get their work done in
stylish fashion without needing to be aware of their computer's
Each version of OS X software code has been more finely tuned; as a
result, Panther runs faster than earlier editions, even on older
hardware. (At least on hardware with plenty of RAM and hard drive
space). Moreover, each new version of OS X has done a better job of
allowing Macs to get along with Windows; Panther-powered Macs can
easily connect to shared folders on Windows networks and can share
their own files with a single click of a button. It's easier than ever
for Mac users to print to shared Windows printers (though there's still
room for improvement here).
Most of the major applications available for the Mac now have native OS
X versions; Microsoft Office, Adobe's graphics programs, Quark Xpress,
Quicken and Quickbooks, and lots more run natively under OS X.
Old-style Mac applications generally work fine running in OS X's
"classic" mode, and if a user really needs to run software that's only
available for Windows, there's Virtual PC (recently purchased by
Microsoft), a program that boots a PC operating system in a window on
the Mac desktop.
While no computer system is 100 per cent secure, OS X's Unix
underpinnings are built on solid foundations, and Apple has released
security patches as needed. Moreover, virus writers and hackers have
tended to aim for the mass numbers of Windows users. As a result, there
are currently no viruses infecting OS X systems.
None. Nada. Zero.
Each successive version of OS X has run faster, played nicer with
Windows networks and included additional features. The downside of this
rapid evolution has been that adopters have been hit with a more or
less annual $149 cost to keep up to date. Most have felt, however, that
the improvements have made it worth paying this unofficial subscription
And sales of Macintosh computers suffer from a perception that they are
under-powered and expensive. Ads show entry-level Macs running at 1.2
Ghz with prices starting at $1,299, while Windows PCs running at double
the speed seem to cost $799 or so. As we saw in BIV 756, it's hard to
compare computers on processor speed alone; even Intel is no longer
advertising its CPUs by the increasingly meaningless clock speed. And
Macs appear more expensive because they pack more features; compare
fully equipped name brand PCs and Macs and the apparent PC price
Sales of Macs have held steady at about 3 million a year. Don't expect
to be able to run OS X on your existing stockpile of PC hardware, but
in combining Unix stability with style, Apple has produced an operating
system that arguably packs more punch and more usability than anything
else currently available.
All that and no viruses. Think about it.