SideXSide: Windows 7 Vs. Mac OS X

Chances are, your company is chock-a-block with outdated PCs running Windows XP. For years now, your employees have made do with these as you waited for Microsoft to offer an operating system suited to your real-life business needs. Of course, sticking with Windows XP for so long made sense. When Microsoft launched Windows Vista, CIOs were suspect of its value in the enterprise. And, as more issues arose, ranging from security problems to compatibility concerns, businesses quickly realized it wasn’t for them. In the process, most enterprises chose to stick with Windows XP.

Now, the time has come to acquire new computers, and with them will come a new operating system. You’re probably leaning towards deploying Windows 7 this year, but with the growing popularity of Apple products you may be wondering if you
should add Mac OS X to your roadmap. Windows 7 is a fine follow-up to Windows XP. But, before you make your decision, it’s worth considering what benefits Apple’s Mac OS X platform might bring to your operation. Check out our latest SideXSide to see whether Mac OS X or Windows 7 is right for you and your company.

SideXSide: Windows 7 Vs. Mac OS X


Windows 7

Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Enterprise-focused edition?

Microsoft offers an Enterprise edition, featuring enhanced encryption options and a virtual version of Windows XP. Windows 7 Ultimate edition is a bit bloated — it has all Windows 7 features — but is another factor to consider.

What you see is what you get. Apple offers one version of Mac OS X that it updates quite frequently. A new version of the operating system, dubbed Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, will be made available this summer.


Security has been a major concern for enterprise Windows users for years, and Windows 7 is no different. However, Windows 7 Enterprise edition features enhanced drive encryption, thanks to BitLocker. It also comes with BitLocker to Go for removable drives. But Windows 7 is still Windows, meaning you’ll need all your standard security tools in place to safeguard data.

Security is a hot-button issue when it comes to Mac OS X. The operating system isn’t affected by nearly as many issues as Windows, but debates rage over whether that’s due to a better design or if Mac OS X simply hasn’t been tested as much as Windows. One important feature is the sandboxing of key network applications, such as Bonjour. FileVault is a fine option for encryption. Third-party security apps are still recommended, though.

Employee productivity

Windows 7 features a vastly different design than Windows XP, potentially reducing employee productivity over the short-term. However, it’s still Windows-like to the extent that most employees will feel at home using the operating system after some training.

Mac OS X is designed much differently than Windows, making it a potential productivity issue over the short-term. Training in previously Windows-only environments will be necessary. Over time, employees should become accustomed to Mac OS X’s unique design.

IT Management Features

Several. As with Windows XP, IT staff will be able to control most aspects of use through options installed with Windows and through third-party applications.

Apple’s Mac OS X platform is lacking compared to Windows 7 when it comes to IT management features. Apple relies on its own engineering rather than relying upon users to establish control. However, it does allow for simple configuration of security tools, such as the built-in firewall.

Built-In Applications

Windows 7 gives users the option of deciding which first-party applications they want installed on their computers. But, as is customary with most enterprise installations, the use of third-party programs for many services is recommended.

Apple offers several built-in applications, including Mail, iTunes, the Safari browser, iMovie video capturing, and much more. Productivity suites, such as Microsoft Office, need to be purchased and installed separately. For simple use, most of Mac OS X’s built-in applications will work just fine.

Virtualization Options

Windows 7 Enterprise Edition allows users to run a full, virtual copy of Windows XP inside the operating system. The feature significantly improves compatibility with legacy program and hardware.

Third-party applications, such as VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop allow users to run virtual copies of Windows inside Mac OS X. Apple also offers Boot Camp, a tool for running both Windows and Mac OS X on the hard drive.

Computer-Buying Options

Several. Vendors ranging from HP to Dell and Acer to Lenovo are offering Windows 7-based computers. Those companies deliver both desktops and notebooks, as well as netbooks. HP is selling a Windows-based tablet, as well.

Very limited. Mac OS X runs only on Apple hardware, meaning enterprise customers will need to buy all computers from Apple. The company currently sells notebooks in its MacBook line and desktops in its iMac, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro lines.

Computer Pricing

Wide range of prices, from quite cheap — as little as $200 — to thousands of dollars, depending on customer needs.

Apple computers start at around $700 for a Mac Mini and run to several thousand dollars, depending on corporate needs.

Software Compatibility Outstanding. Windows 7 is compatible with the majority of existing enterprise applications. A virtual Windows XP installation ensures legacy applications will work with the operating system, as well.

Enterprise application support has historically been poor with Mac OS X. Most developers opt to create programs for Windows, and have largely ignored Mac OS X, due to its smaller market share.

Hardware Compatibility

Hardware compatibility is quite high. Current products will work with Windows 7. Legacy peripherals and other hardware products will work with the operating system, thanks to the virtual version of Windows XP running inside the platform.

Hardware compatibility with most new products is approximately equal to that of Windows 7. However, older, enterprise-focused legacy products might not work with Mac OS X. In general, more products work with Windows than with Mac OS X.

Source: CIO Insight, March 2011

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