Upgrade fever hits Mac and Windows worlds

September 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Reprinted with permission from my original article featured on the TalkTalk official blog

Unless you live in a bunker on the far side of the Moon (in which case, congratulations on finding your way here) then you’ll know we are entering a huge couple of months for the computer industry with the launch of Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’. Windows 7 arrives on 22 October and Snow Leopard is already here having touched down on 28 August.

Both are expected to help drive computer sales during this wretched global recession of ours. Each has more things in common than either Microsoft or Apple fans would care to admit, but perhaps the biggest is this: both are essentially service packs with price tags.

Snow Leopard

Yes, there are plenty of counter arguments to this controversial viewpoint and many can argue Windows 7 in particular offers far more upgrade benefits to PCs than Snow Leopard does to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard users. I’d say that’s because there was far more to fix in Vista than there ever was in Leopard. Whatever your standpoint however we are ultimately looking at spring cleans not root and branch surgery.

Now before I incur too much wrath, or get into a tit for tat feature comparison battle, let me say I think this is a good thing. It’s the way software should be – or at least it’s a step in the right direction. Gone should be the days of waiting 3 – 5 years for your next OS. In fact, ideally there shouldn’t even be a ‘next’ OS. Whatever platform we choose should see continual evolution and be as seamless to the user as possible. After all, what version of Gmail are we on now or Google Search? iPhone OS may be up to its third major iteration, but new and old iPhone models alike continue to benefit.

There are practical applications too. Incremental improvements mean end users don’t need retraining on wholly different systems – they are constantly learning as changes are made little step by little step. I’d also argue there would be less resilience to a small monthly fee than singular upgrades dumped upon us at hundreds of pounds (though Snow Leopard’s £25 RRP is a notable exception here), it would also make piracy more difficult.

Windows 7

The web will play a huge role in this vision with real time updates, virus protection and the continual offloading of processing onto farms of remote servers as witnessed every time you perform a Internet search (you really didn’t think your computer was doing those immense calculations did you?). I believe we don’t want Windows XP, Vista, 7 and Mac OS X 10.4, 10.5, 10.6 we want ‘Windows’ and ‘Mac OS’: smoothly evolving platforms that detect your hardware and optimise appropriately for computers old and new.

Of course, there is one group where I’m largely preaching to the converted. Many Linux distributions have long worked in this way and current Linux leader Ubuntu releases upgradeable versions free of charge every six months under such fabulous code names as Fiesty Fawn, Hardy Heron and Jaunty Jackalope. Ubuntu is free, technical support and services earn it revenues.

The obvious (though not necessarily inevitable) next step to all this is Cloud Computing, a system whereby the bulk of the OS is hosted online and users can forget entirely about such matters as updates and upgrades. It also makes the bulk of an OS mobile, allowing users to hop from one computer to another as if they were all the same machine. Cloud Computing is something Google hopes we will latch onto with Chrome OS (which I discussed back in July), but its weak point is the reliance on a reliable and near-constant Internet connection.

In the meantime and despite the furore surrounding Windows 7 and Snow Leopard, I’d be happy just to see the back of these generational OSes…

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