The Mac OS X Operating System
You can’t talk about a Mac notebook or desktop without talking about Mac OS X. For the uninitiated, Apple has had a steady stream of operating system releases starting with 10.0 Cheetah, 10.1 Puma, 10.2 Jaguar, 10.3 Panther, 10.4 Tiger, and 10.5 Leopard. While 10.1 was a free upgrade for 10.0 users, each operating system release thereafter has required a purchase, typically $129 ($109 street) for a single user license, $199 for a 5-pack family license ($139 street), and $69 from an on-campus bookstore.
OS X 10.0 was released around the same time that Windows XP was released, and OS X 10.5 was released around the same time that Windows Vista was released. Unsurprisingly, the difference between Leopard and Cheetah are as significant as the difference between Windows Vista and Windows XP. The real difference is that OS X has had more incremental releases that can really be thought of as “service packs plus bonuses.” Not only does each “point one release” address bugs, it also added extra features and capabilities.
I would bore you if you I went over all of the nitty, gritty of the underlying technology of OS X and debate the pros and cons of the XNU kernel, the inferiority of Leopard’s Address Space Layout Randomization in comparison to Vista’s, or the differences between Xcode and Visual Studio. I won’t stress the little things like the fact that copy/paste is “command-C and command-V” as opposed to CTRL-C and CTRL-V, meaning that it feels like “ALT-C” and “ALT-V” because you’re using your thumb instead of your small finger. It takes a few days for you to adapt.
Instead, I’ll just touch upon some of the key features that make a Mac, a Mac.
When the iPhone was first launched, one of the most impressive features was the speed and responsiveness compared to other smartphones with the mobile Web at the time. Working with Mac OS X provides the same overall level of fit-and-finish as the iPhone. Opening multiple windows, navigating between them, and launching applications is simply faster in Mac OS X as compared to Windows Vista or even Linux. This wasn’t always the case with Macs. Even when the GPU-accelerated interface was introduced in OS X 10.2, Windows XP was still the faster performing operating system. As GPUs have continued to get faster and faster, however, the OS X’s full GPU-dependent interface beats the capabilities of Windows Vista.
Additional architecture improvements have been made as well. Mac OS will automatically defrag small files under 20 MB each time the file is accessed in order to provide a better-maintained filesystem. By default, a Mac will automatically delete old log files and temporary files to maintain free space. Finally, since Mac OS X adopts a Unix-like approach with preferences stored in multiple files rather than a single registry hive, as you add new software, there is less fragmentation.