Mac Updates vs. Windows updates

by Hadley Stern

Don't worry, this isn't a Mac vs. PC piece. Well, not explicitly at least. I just find the discrepancy between Apple's updating schedule and Microsoft’s, well...interesting.

Mac users who took the plunge since the first official release of Mac OS X have had to contend with upgrade after upgrade. Just as we got used to one cat another one was thrown our way. Of course many of us were delighted to get innovation after innovation and, lets face it, the first version of OS X was rough at best, unusable for many things at worst (did you ever try to select more than 10 items in OS 10.1?)

Contrast the above with Windows XP which has been around for quite a time now (4 years?! I am blissfully ignorant of all things Windows). Microsoft releases service back after service pack but no upgrades like Apple does. Longhorn seems more likely to arrive after world peace at this stage and even Microsoft is talking about an XP plus in the interim.

Neither model is necessarily better. Apple users have been struck with dead hard drives (albeit in the minority) with even interim OS upgrades and getting used to new ways of doing things can be tiresome. Not to mention the myriad third-party software out there that has to keep up with Apple and simply can't.

On the other hand Microsoft’s all-eggs-in-one-basket approach leaves innovation on a very slow timeframe. Say what you want about Apple's upgrade approach, it is definitely visionary.

This all reminds me of someone I met recently who was a successful digital fine art photographer. She used an 8100 (yes, an 8100) with 64 megs of ram and a 4 gig hard drive for all her work. I was aghast. And her work was beautiful. Maybe innovation doesn't come in the latest bits and bites and updates and upgrades. Maybe it comes in spite of it.

Which do you prefer, whirlwind upgrades or slow ones?


2004-05-20 09:11:53
Another interesting thing... note is that Apple bundles a lot of wonderful apps into its OS releases, which everyone loves. However, what happens when Microsoft bundles a browser? Could you imagine what people would be screaming if they tried to put a Photoshop-level app into Longhorn?

Like the author being "blissfully ignorant of all things Windows," I'm fairly uninformed about most things Mac, since I'm a Windows admin (However, I do like Macs). How many third party apps does Apple bundle with an iMac? If they don't, why not? Does Opera or Mozilla ship with most Macs?

That's not flame-bait, I'm genuinly curious and too lazy to go to the Apple website at the moment ;-)

Thanks for the great blog entry!

2004-05-20 09:59:42
Neither is perfect, but it's all we've got for now
Apple and Microsoft have such different audiences so their strategy will always be different. Apple's smaller marketshare could be perceived as more agile and quicker to adopt Mac OS X updates. Microsoft's entrenchment in the enterprise translates to corporate IT departments balking at constantly upgrading thousands of Windows PC -- even if it's on a regular schedule. Many large enterprise IT organizations have trouble deploying Windows Service Packs due to their size and the effect the update can have on existing applications. By the time an enterprise can adequately test the implications of a Windows Service Pack on their applications, a new one may be on the horizon, further complicating Windows OS lifecycle management. Neither model is perfect nor can please entities from small businesses to huge enterprises with hundreds of thousands of desktop PCs. What's really needed is some new thinking around reframing the problem and make some fundamental changes.
2004-05-20 11:42:04
Mac updates vs. Windows updates

I have a hard time believing you are not planting some tasty flame-bait comparing Windows integration of IE with Apple's inclusion of iLife applications like Safari. The Microsoft and Apple business models are fundamentally different--Microsoft sells its products to 3rd party hardware resellers. Apple ships its products on its own machines. The Microsoft issue is the embedding of IE into the very structure of OS, making it impossible for its clients to chose to include another browser, or not include IE at all. This is different from Apple's approach.

Apple bundles a slew of 3rd party applications with its computers, including (I think still, its been six months since I bought a Mac!) Internet Explorer and a demo version of Microsoft Office. Other examples includes Acrobat, Omnigraffle, Omnioutliner, Quicken, and, depending on the machines, kids applications, Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Those examples are off the top of my head...there are more.


Your points about the problems of managing enterprise updates are very well made. There is no simple solution to the problem of keeping machines immune to viruses (and yes, I believe if the Mac had a greater market share, it would target to an equal amount of viruses....but that is for another blog entry) and new thinking is needed.

2004-05-20 11:53:24
Another interesting thing...
"How many third party apps does Apple bundle with an iMac?"

Lots. Quicken Deluxe, AppleWorks (not quite third-party, but worthy of noting), World Book Encyclopedia, Sound Studio, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4, Deimos Rising, and Checkmate are the website headliners, not counting Apple-created apps such as Safari, iCal, Mail, AddressBook, FontBook, and the iLife suite: GarageBand, iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie and (depending on model) iDVD.

Neither Opera nor Mozilla ship with a Mac, but Internet Explorer does, as does the above-mentioned Safari.

And that's just the consumer line.

2004-05-20 19:50:17
It is because they are Microsoft

You mention that people would be up in arms if MS tried to bundle apps to the extent that Apple do. Exactly, and this is how it should be.

There's nothing inherently wrong with bundling applications like this, Apple do it all the time. All of the Linux vendors do it to an even greater extent (e.g. OpenOffice, etc.). The difference is that none of these companies / organizations are a monopoly. As a monopoly MS is bound by tighter constraints than other companies.


I think that one of the problems with Apple issuing a new update every year (although they've recently announced that they'll slow down) is that they are charging $129 or thereabouts for them. This is especially painful given the fact that the first couple of releases of OS X were essentially public betas.

Maybe they should look at moving to a subscription based pricing model, this will enable them to better bundle services (e.g. dot-mac) while maintaining a steady revenue stream. I'm sure thay could think of some whizzy tie-ins with ITMS to make it sound more appealing as well.

2004-05-21 12:31:38
Bundling vs. Integration
The major difference between the Mac & Windows strategy of including applications is that the Mac bundles, while Windows integratates.

Mac applications that are included with the OS, but can be removed, ignored, or replaced without any bother. The only exception is QuickTime, which is integrated, but alternate multimedia frameworks can be added to the Mac without too much bother.

Windows applications that are included with the OS are tightly integrated. It's next to impossible to remove, ignore or replace them. Web browsing, multi-media, chatting, etc. are all tightly bound to the OS. Alternatives can be added, but the Microsoft applications are always prefered by the OS.

To me the difference is about choice. Macs give you default applications that you can replace. Windows gives you integrated applications that are always present and prefered by Windows.
2004-05-21 12:40:37
removal of Wiindows programs

does that mean that you can never remove Internet Explorer from a Windows box? That is indeed very different from the Apple approach. While a ton of Apple applications are bundled by Apple if you never wanted to use iChat, Safari, iMovie or any of the others you just toss them in the trash and be done with it.

I assumed Windows worked the same way.

2004-05-22 15:19:03
removal of Wiindows programs
Removing any integrated Microsoft application in Windows is like major brain surgery: not recommended for the amateur, and will probably break other things. For example, WindowsUpdate *needs* Internet Explorer to run. If you do manage to remove Internet Explorere, WindowsUpdate breaks. WindowsMessenger (the MS chat client) is tightly integrated with Outlook Express, Outlook and Remote Assistance (among others).

So yes, Apple & Microsoft have very different approaches to bundled/integrated applications.

2004-05-31 09:57:07
Love upgrades - love new stuff
I love new stuff and like to upgrade subversions within the first week - not least to get security updates.

I've been a OS X user since the Public Beta. I got it at the launch in Hong Kong making it about half a day ahead of Europe and the US :) though Kiwis and Aussies bet us to the punch.

Since then I've upgraded at regular intervals to 10.0 (the Public Beta cost was rebated) 10.1, 10.2 and now 10.3 - the first releases 10.0. and 10.1 were an upgrade fee - the others because I've bought a new Mac with the new version.

I see no reason to get upset with paying for a new version every other year with the free updates during that period. You get cool new stuff, features and stability - hardly ever restart. Though I do crash the full OS at least once a year... and once I needed to reinstall a clean OS - no data loss to files though - that beats the so called superfast XP machine I've got to use for AutoCAD... need to restart that all the time or it s t a r t s t o c r a w l....

Nup - in all I like the high rotate, and a subscription model - well $60 a year sounds fine to me :) - but that's what we have now in effect.