I mentioned when I first switched that I’ve been a closet Apple fanboy for years, I was just waiting for a good enough excuse to buy a mac. All that time I was never able to put a finger on why I enjoyed macs so much, but after four months full time I think I’ve worked it out.

I still use XP on my windows box regularly for games, but last week had to boot up the Vista partition. As I tried for countless minutes to achieve something useful while the system had a mild heart attack doing whatever it is that Vista does, I finally realised what was wrong.

The difference between Apple and Microsoft is that when you’re using an Apple OS, the user comes first. No ifs, no buts, if the user wants something it uses all the available resources to serve that request. Everything feels snappy even in low memory environments (and even on a phone!). Applications, particularly Apple applications, are designed to be secondary and subservient to the user.

Microsoft on the other hand make operating systems where it, along with the applications, rule. You can only guide them. Vista, and to a lesser extent XP, cares only about itself. Sure it might put on a pretty face and try to make you feel like you’re in control, but under the hood it doesn’t care one iota what you want. It’s so busy trying to anticipate and pre-cache your next action, index your documents, swap out that application you just minimised even though you might need it in 2 minutes, and countless other background tasks, that the user winds up with a sluggish experience and a frustrating lack of control over the system.

Having used windows for over 10 years, I can look back and see that this “system > user” philosophy has always been hiding under the surface. You just never really notice unless you’re looking for it or the OS requirements jump higher than the average computer power at the time. Microsoft have really painted themselves into a corner with all of the enterprise requirements and backwards compatibility weighing them down.

Apple, on the other hand, have years of user-centric development behind them. Even though they’re starting to pander to enterprise customers, if the iPhone 2.0 demos are anything to go by the addition of enterprise features in 10.6 won’t compromise the end user experience.

Maybe Microsoft will pull something out of their hat, but it’s going to take even more to make me switch back now that my eyes are open.

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