PC vs. Mac deathmatch: Snow Leopard beats Windows 7

Windows 7 is a worthy rival, but Mac OS X Snow Leopard is the better operating system by a whisker for discriminating professionals

I have a confession: I'm a switcher. My long journey with Windows, which began even before Windows with MS-DOS, ended with Windows Vista. While so many others navigated the Vista debacle by sticking with Windows XP, I gave Vista a try -- and gave up. I leapt to the Mac OS.

Could Windows 7 lure me back?

Windows 7 was built to fix the problems that plagued Vista, and it unquestionably succeeds in doing that. It's a bit less bloated, and it runs a bit faster. The annoying security alerts from User Account Control have been quieted. And the compatibility issues with third-party software and hardware device drivers have largely been ironed away; after all, it's been two and a half years since Vista debuted. Windows 7 even includes a virtual "XP mode" for running legacy programs.

[ Which is better? The Mac OS and Windows 7 UIs face off. | Get InfoWorld's 21-page hands-on look at the next version of Windows, from InfoWorld’s editors and contributors. | Find out what's new, what's wrong, and what's good about Windows 7 in InfoWorld's "Windows 7: The essential guide." ]

Windows 7 goes a few steps beyond merely repairing Vista. It borrows --and improves on -- tricks from the Mac's playbook to make it easier and faster to organize files and launch programs. Like Apple's operating system, Windows 7 not only looks good, but it has tools and shortcuts that help you work more efficiently. If there were ever a Windows that could challenge Mac OS X, Windows 7 is it.

Still, once you've had Mac, can you ever go back? Mac OS X Leopard received rave reviews for good reason, and Snow Leopard further improved OS X. Although the changes to the GUI are minimal (why mess with success?), there are important improvements under the hood, including a recoded, 64-bit Finder that takes better advantage of multicore processors. Snow Leopard also makes the Mac a better fit with PC-oriented businesses with integrated Mail, Address Book, and iCal support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.

After spending a few weeks with both new operating systems and exposing each to my geek's gauntlet of everyday tasks -- e-mail, instant messaging, Web surfing, blogging, creating and editing Office documents, Web page creation, and audio, video, and photo editing -- I have to call Snow Leopard the winner. All considered, from starting up to backing up, Mac OS X still offers the best overall user experience. The competition was close, though -- far closer than it's been in quite a while.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Compatibility (20.0%)
Ease of use (20.0%)
Security (15.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Manageability (20.0%)
Features (15.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard 8.0 10.0 9.0 10.0 9.0 10.0 9.3
Microsoft Windows 7 9.0 10.0 8.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.1
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