Windows Vista “Borrows” Features from Mac OS X

Vista DesktopWindows has a long history of “borrowing” features from the Mac. Not that this is a bad thing…almost all successful products are a new and improved version of something that came before it. It does seem like a large number of features that were introduced on the Mac have moved to Windows in a new improved form. The situation was so bad at one point that the two companies sued each other over the right to the trash can. Who won? Microsoft ended up using a recycle bin instead of a trash can. Regardless, today my primary development workstation runs Windows XP Pro so Microsoft must be doing something right.

Enter Windows Vista…the fact is, looks do matter and Windows Vista looks gorgeous! Vista seems to be all about eye-candy from its transparent windows and title bars to the new alternative Alt-Tab interface.

 Vista's New Alt-Tab Interface

A notable new feature called Microsoft Gadgets has been been introduced with Vista. Gadgets can be displayed on your desktop or in a sidebar that attaches to the side of your screen. I have attempted to use Widgets on my Windows PC in the past and simply wasn’t happy with the performance. The Mac OS X implementation uses a “Dashboard” concept that overlays the entire screen requiring you to “activate” the dashboard before you can use your widgets. Windows allows you to display your widgets in the sidebar or on the desktop making them available at a glance. Microsoft’s gadgets remove the performance issues and adds some new twists that makes this feature something that may well become one of those “can’t live without” items.

The second item that reminds me of my Mac OS X system is a little less obvious but probably much more important is the new security system in Vista. Microsoft has built the OS with security as a primary consideration which makes this probably the most secure version of Windows yet. A new feature called User Account Control (UAC) prompts the user for permission before actions such as installing new software.

Wandering thought: I have two children, a son and a daughter. Spyware and viruses became such a large problem on their computers that I finally took the extreme step of creating a separate network and running Windows NT on their computers and giving them user accounts. This turned out to be more of a hassle for me since their computers continued to be infected with spyware even on the reduced privilege accounts but I still needed to install and update any applications they wanted on their computers. Hmmm. Finally I gave up and let them run XP Home with antispyware and antivirus. They were still infected most of the time since the infections came from software they downloaded and installed themselves but my computers were safe since they were on a separate network. I wonder if the new security features of Windows Vista will be up to the task of keeping their computers clean? I’ll definitely let you know after Vista is released.

I realize that Microsoft probably didn’t borrow this feature from OS X but it does feel very much the same. My first experience with Vista had security popups that felt very much like OS X as a I was installing applications and configuring the system for use.

Vista's User Account Control (UAC)

In my opinion, operating systems will never be completely safe since their will always be a human factor and a lot of the spyware and viruses are using built-in social engineering tactics to get themselves installed on user’s computers. But the new security features in Vista are definitely a step in the right direction.

Finally, the directory structure that Vista uses is becoming more Mac-like. Again, this is how it feels to me so don’t start in with all the differences and reasons why the two are not the same. User accounts have been pulled from their original location at documents and settings are are now located in a directory called “Users”. Sound familiar? The directories under each user account use simpler names with no spaces (with the sole exception of “Saved Games”) and are named things like “Pictures” and “Music”. Again…sound familiar? One might point out that this is obvious and is not a structure that can be claimed solely by OS X but again, I was struck by the familiarity with my OS X system.

>Vista's New User Directory Structure

Ironically, this copy of Vista is running on my MacBook Pro using Apple’s Boot Camp software to dual-boot Vista with OS X…more on that later.

For those of you who like pictures, here are a few more.

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