At its recent WWDC event, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced the latest desktop operating system for its iMac range, which is dubbed OS X 10.11, or ‘El Capitan’ for short. El Capitan will be going up against the brand new Windows 10 operating system from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), which is intended to provide a reboot of the entire Windows concept after a rather disastrous reception that was afforded Windows 8. So how do these two high-profile desktop operating systems compare with one another? Here is a rundown on some of what we know about the two pieces of software.
The first thing to note about the two systems is that Windows 10 will be available to the general public sooner. Windows 10 is already available as a beta release, and will be launched into the public domain fully on July 29, 2015. While we don’t have a precise release date for the Apple El Capitan System yet, it has been stated that it will be released at some point during the fall. A late September or early October release date could be a likely outcome.
Verdict: Advantage Microsoft
In a contemporary marketplace in which revenue models are changing rapidly, and in which mobile is increasingly important, it almost goes without saying that both Windows 10 and the latest version of OS X are both available free to users.
If you have a relatively recent iMac or Windows PC laptop, you’ll be able to upgrade to the new operating system automatically free of charge. In fact, you can expect to be reminded to do so on a very regular basis!
There is a constant push to produce software which has a smaller footprint, and at the same time, of course, hardware is becoming increasingly powerful. This means that both the most recent OS X release and Windows 10 will be able to run on numerous existing computers.
Of course, Apple’s proprietary software ought to be significantly more compatible than Windows 10, as it only runs on Apple brand hardware, as opposed to the dozens of PC manufacturers which are available all over the world. So we already know that this new Apple operating system will run on IMacs from 2007 onwards, MacBook laptops from late 2008, pretty much every version of the MacBook Pro, any MacBook Air from late 2008 onwards, Mac Minis from early 2009, and the Mac Pro series from early 2008. Finally, those users utilizing Xserve need a machine from early 2009 at the latest.
Windows compatibility is also improving, and we know for starters that the software will be compatible with any system that can already run Windows 8 and Windows 7. There could be compatibility issues with older desktop machines that currently run Windows XP or other versions of Windows software, and the former could be something of an issue considering how popular XP remains.
In addition, PCs have a shelf-life, and Windows tends to take up more processing power than the OS X system, so those people with older PCs that are still relying on Windows XP will quite simply be forced to upgrade in the foreseeable future. Microsoft has announced that it will stop supporting XP, and it will become increasingly difficult to operate a Windows-based system via such an ageing PC anyway.
However, Windows candidates have something of an advantage in that it is able to run on mobile phones and tablets. This would seem to be a selling point of tablets in particular that are capable of this, and it could also be a nifty bragging right for the Windows Phone range from hereon in. But Apple always has its renowned iOS operating system to fall back on for future releases, and the corporation will doubtless argue that OS X simply isn’t designed to run on any of these devices.
Verdict: Advantage Apple
This is an area where Windows traditionally outperforms OS X by a considerable distance. Developers are simply far more likely to produce software for the Windows platform, owing to the simple fact that around 90 percent of desktop computers are still PCs even in this diversifying day and age.
In terms of desktop applications, OS X remains a strong performer. It is extremely unlikely that there is any form of variety of software that you might wish to use that isn’t readily available on the Mac. The Microsoft Office suite is probably still the definitive office palette of programs, but Pages in particular does a good job on OS X, and the Mac is certainly adequately stocked in this department.
However, those wishing to play games on a desktop computer will still be relatively disappointed with OS X. it is extremely difficult for Apple to catch up in this department, as Windows 10 will have a much larger installed user base, and consequently attracts more games. You will always have a sheer volume of games to choose from on Windows 10 as opposed to OS X, and this won’t change with this latest operating system, even though the Mac is closing the gap to a certain extent.
Verdict: Advantage Microsoft
Windows 10 is proclaimed to be the most secure version of Windows ever, but Mac users will be 100 percent certain that OS X 10.11 El Capitan is still considerably safer to use. Any infection that gets into the Mac does far less damage owing to its UNIX basis, and of course there are far fewer viruses on the OS X platform. An iMac is simply a much safer machine to use than any PC, and it is simply impossible to argue otherwise.
Verdict: Advantage Apple
New features in OS X 10.11 include a redesigned and slightly toned-down interface. Siri has been seriously upgraded, with improved Wi-Fi features, social app discovery, and App Store search also promoted by Apple. Better iOS integration is also promised, and a QuickType-style predictive text promises to make this OS X release more user-friendly.
Cortana is still the top personal assistant, though, and the promise of Universal Apps and on-the-fly Continuum will whet the appetite of many PC users. Virtual desktops look pretty nifty, and the return of the Start menu will be a blessed relief. Internet Explorer has been ditched in favor of ‘Project Spartan’, and cynics might suggest that this new browser can’t possibly be worse than Explorer!
Both operating systems have their strengths and weaknesses. Game players in particular will almost inevitably head for Windows 10, while those wanting a secure, stable and relatively virus-free platform will probably continue to opt for OS X. Cortana remains a jewel in the crown of Windows 10, as does its Office suite, but Mac users know that OS X retains a smaller footprint over a much longer period of time. The operating system debate will rumble on, but what can be said for certain is that Windows 10 looks to be a step in the right direction for Microsoft, while OS X and the Apple Mac series continues to eat into its still hugely dominant market share.