What’s The Better Value: Vista or Mac OS?

    September 7, 2006

There’s a lot of confusion going around. Chris Pirillo acts like Windows Vista Ultimate, at $400, will be what most users pay, and that Mac OS is much cheaper.

Assuming Ultimate is going to be required would be like assuming XP Pro would be required, and how many people bought that? Most people will get the upgrade of Vista Home Basic ($100) or Premium ($160), and a single upgrade for Mac OS costs $130.

Now, try to tell me that the difference between XP Home and Vista Home Premium isn’t bigger than the upgrade from OS X 10.3 to 10.4. Compare!

What you get from XP Home to Vista Home Premium:

Windows Vista Media Center (adds TV recording and simple, easy fullscreen interface for video and music, and platform for third-party tools)

Aero Glass

Instant system search

ReadyBoost performance boost via USB drives

DVD Maker

Meeting Space (collaborate via wifi with nearby PCs)

Vista Sidebar (desktop gadgets)

SideShow (same gadgets, run on the outside of your laptop without turning it on)

Tablet features

Updated system applications

New security system

Compatibility with Windows applications for free

Minimum PC: 1 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, better than integrated graphics, 10 GB hard drive (can also be installed on Macs)

Cost = $159 to upgrade

What you get from OS X 10.3 to OS X 10.4:

Instant system search

Dashboard (desktop gadgets)

Updated system applications

Security fixes

Compatibilty with Windows applications via Boot Camp starting at $199 extra

Minimum computer: A Mac. Current minimum Mac is a $599 Mac Mini with 1.66 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, integrated graphics. Cannot be installed on PCs.

Cost = $129 to upgrade

Note: To get the Mac equivelant of Media Center, you need to buy a new Mac with Front Row. Front Row is like Media Center, without the TV features and third-party applications. Media Center can also be aquired by running Boot Camp and buying Windows Vista Home Premium (full retail) for $240.

Note: There is no Mac equivelant of the Tablet PC.

Note: Many listed new Mac OS 10.4 features are available as free updates to Windows XP and present in Windows Vista, like Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Media Player 11.

Note: Mac OS X comes with many powerful free applications that Windows does not, or that Windows has very crappy equivelants of. However, in many cases, like iPhoto, there are free software programs that are considered just as good, like Google’s Picasa. In addition, there is a lot of great free software for Windows, and considerably less free software for the Mac.

Note: Mac OS X has a volume licensed version of the upgrade that costs $200 for up to five computers. If you have two computers, it is $100 per upgrade; three computers, $66 per; four computers, $50 per; five computers, $40 per.

So, here’s the rub: In January, Windows XP Home users can upgrade for $160 ($100 if they don’t want Media Center or Aero), while Mac users can upgrade for $129 to 10.4, and will be able to upgrade sometime next year to 10.5, which appears to be on a similar level to 10.4. 10.5 adds Front Row, backup features, virtual desktops, and prettier ways to do some things.

I find it hard to believe that Apple’s service pack beats Microsoft’s new operating system, in terms of sheer value of added features. Even if you hate Windows, it would be hard to argue that the new operating system of Windows Vista isn’t a better price bargain than what amounts to a decent update.


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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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