Will your next computer run Vista or Leopard?
The last day you can buy a standard system with Windows XP is less than two weeks away. Three limited loopholes will allow some to buy XP afterwards. For most of you reading this, the question about your next computer is, “will it run Windows Vista or Mac OS X 10.5 AKA Leopard?”
The biggest of the XP loopholes is that you can downgrade some versions of Vista to XP. Vista Business or Ultimate versions can be downgraded at the time of purchase. Corporations with subscription plans will also be allowed to downgrade. This is necessary because many proprietary applications will not run in Vista.
The second loophole is that Microsoft will allow vendors to ship inexpensive, ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) with XP. These machines are small form-factor devices that have limited RAM and storage. They retail for $300-$600. This burgeoning sector of the PC market was pioneered by the ASUS Eee PC. There has been an explosion of competitive offerings announced recently. Often these machines run Linux, which works well on low-powered equipment. Microsoft dare not ignore this market. Since these machines cannot run Vista, Microsoft has offered to continue selling XP.
The third loophole is that unsold or unactivated copies of XP can continue to be sold. No more will be made. I expect these to disappear in the next few months.
Vista has garnered lots of bad press. Most of it well deserved. It is similar to XP but not similar enough. It needs more powerful hardware than XP. It is incompatible with lots of old hardware, such as printers or scanners. It is designed for the corporate environment but forced upon consumers. Corporations have been slow to adopt it because it offers little in the way of improvement and costs more. Consumers have been stuck with it because it is almost impossible to find a computer at a local retailer, Best Buy, Wal-mart, or Costco that does not have Vista pre-loaded, Macs being an exception.
Yet Vista works okay. Some of its features, like the new Start button menu or the enhanced Windows Explorer are real improvements. All new computer equipment is designed with Vista in mind, except for limited product segments such as the UMPC or Apple segments. Once users adjust to Vista, they become comfortable with it. You may never love it but you will adapt.
If you move from XP to Leopard, you also have to adjust to a new way of doing things. You need to buy new software because Windows applications do not run natively under OS X. (See below for ways around this limitation.)
Leopard comes on modern Apple Macs. The Mac line-up is different from the PC world:
- The Mac mini is the cheapest Mac. It measures just 6.5” x 6.5” x 2” and starts at $600. The monitor, keyboard and mouse are extra.
- The MacBook is Apples’ inexpensive notebook, starting at $1,100. A comparably equipped Windows machine probably costs about $800 to $900.
- Apple also sells a more expensive line of notebooks, the MacBook Pro and an expensive ultra-light, the MacBook Air.
- Apples’ desktop lineup consists of an all-in-one unit, the iMac, and the Mac Pro, an expensive tower. The low-end iMac costs $1,200. A comparable PC workstation is probably about $900-$1,000.
Should you buy the more costly Mac, recognizing that you need to buy all new software too, or should you buy a less expensive Windows PC? My recommendation is buy the Mac unless the price-differential, including software, is a significant cost for you. All currently selling Macs will run Windows Vista. Leopard includes Bootcamp, a utility that lets you dual-boot your computer into Leopard or a Windows OS. There are three virtual machine applications for Leopard, VirtualBox, VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop, which allow you to run Windows within Leopard without rebooting. So if you buy a Mac you can have both Vista and Leopard. It is like having your cake and eating it too!