With all the hype around Windows 95, it's easy to imagine that as Windows gets better, it's closing the gap and may someday be easier to use than Macintosh. In fact, this is very unlikely to happen for some important fundamental reasons. It's no accident the Mac leads in ease-of-use and the PC industry hasn't been able to catch up. Let's consider why.
Apple was the original innovator that applied the best computer science research to the problem of building an affordable easy to use personal computer.
While Microsoft is certainly committed to making Windows easier to use, it is also committed to backward compatibility with much older technology (DOS) as a core marketing strategy.
Apple believes hardware capabilities drive OS development. Hardware advances and falling prices continue to play an important role in shaping the industry. Apple leads the way in integrating easy-to-use networking and multi-media, and is uniquely positioned to offer complete solutions.
Microsoft believes applications drive OS development, and thus will almost always be behind in taking advantage of new hardware. Even the latest 32-bit Windows 95 uses the Pentium as a fast 386.
Apple: design the hardware and software to work together by retaining control of key pieces while opening others. Do it well enough and use a compelling vision along with market strength to get others to follow. Since the Mac market is much smaller, Apple must rely more on its vision to attract developers.
Microsoft: make the software configurable enough to support a vast array of hardware options. Do it well enough and use market strength along with a compelling vision to get others to follow. The PC industry desperately needs a leader to pull all the diverse pieces together, and for many, Microsoft is the only player with the resources to do it. The goal of supporting so many diverse options means it will never be as easy to configure Windows as a Mac.
The need to support specialized hardware is one of best reasons to choose a PC over a Mac. Following the largest crowd to be safe is perhaps the worst.
While no one system is best for everything, in general, Mac's will be easier and less expensive to use for the forseable future. If Windows hasn't caught up by now, it isn't going to anytime soon.
Please send comments to: Peter Sichel. Peter is Chief Engineer of Sustainable Softworks, a small startup dedicated to computing that respects our environment.