Apple and Microsoft: The platform war

Devin Henry

Computer manufacturing giant Apple Inc. released Leopard, the newest update of its popular operating system, Friday, reviving the debate between Microsoft and Apple users worldwide.

Leopard, which follows the footsteps of Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger and Panther, boasts more than 300 new features, including improved security and Time Machine, a program that helps users retrieve deleted documents.

Fred Evans, product manager for FirstTech Computer in Minneapolis, said Apple, a 23-year-old company based in Cupertino, Calif., has generally been marketed as a brand of products for creative industries.

In recent years, however, its products, which include Mac computers and the iPod, have become more mainstream, he said.

“It’s spreading into all niches of the computer market,” Evans said. “We do have good-sized companies that are 100 percent Mac for everybody.”

Apple’s popularity also extends into college markets, Evans said.

“From what I’ve seen, the Macs are becoming even more and more popular on college campuses,” he said. “They seem to be the default machine now. It’s usually the first one that people seem to be thinking of.”

Loren Terveen, associate professor of computer science, said Mac users are the minority in computer science programs, where he guesses only 20 percent of students opt to use Apple computers.

Computer science courses aren’t tied directly to one type of computer, Terveen said, and only a few classes touch specifically on Mac processes.

“We teach concepts of dealing with what makes a good user interface, including good principals for graphic design,” he said. “Given that the Macintosh was a pioneer in that area, we often do discuss the key concepts that first showed up in Macs.”

Evans said some consumers prefer Apple because of the ease of use the system offers.

“The thing we hear the most is that they are more intuitive. They kind of work more like how people work,” he said. “Everything is very well integrated, everything works well together. It’s really easy to keep track of all your digital life.”

Graphic design senior Aaron Shekey has been using Apple products since after he used Mac OS X for yearbook production in high school.

“It’s a really great user experience,” he said, speaking on his Apple iPhone. “They’re always giving us products that make sense at the time and are nothing too revolutionary until you use them, and then you realize, holy crap, that’s the real thing.”

Computer science senior Ryan McGrew has been running Leopard on his MacBook laptop since Friday.

“It’s not going to change your life but it has a lot of nice little things,” he said.

McGrew said he hasn’t used the Windows operating system for personal use since getting his first Apple computer in 2004.

For some students, adapting to Mac use can be hard.

Ryan Tubbs, a computer science senior, said he was raised on Windows and finds the transition to the Apple operating system challenging.

“I am very used to the way Windows works,” he said. “Macs are counterintuitive. It makes me seem like the total computer illiterate.”

Despite the differences between the two companies, Terveen said he sees many similarities in the way the computers run.

“A lot of the features are going to be the same underlying models,” he said. “I’ve got a graphic depiction of stuff, I have the trash can, I’ve got my recycle bin; a lot of the applications have converged.”