Mac OS X Yosemite vs Windows 8 comparison review

Mac vs PC; It’s the battle that never ends. Even heavyweight philosopher Umberto Eco weighed in on the argument at one time in a seminal essay on the subject, comparing the two operating systems to religious movements. His conclusions?

“The Macintosh is counter-reformist... The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.”

PCs on the other hand are “Calvinistic”

“(The PC) imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation... the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.”
 
We’re comparing Yosemite head-to-head with Windows 8, the current version of Microsoft Windows for the PC. With Windows 9 just around the corner, we took into account some of the changes we can expect to see when it’s released at the end of September. Which leads to salvation and which encloses the user in the loneliness of his inner torment? Read: Mac versus PC.

Read our full review of Yosemite and our Yosemite release date story plus our comparison of Yosemite and Mavericks and our Yosemite pros and cons and our Yosemite tips for beginners

Windows vs Mac OS X Yosemite: Backwards compatibility/Hardware

Historically speaking, Windows has always won when it comes to backwards compatibility. Apple has had a habit of making swathes of functional machinery redundant with each update - but Windows is engineered to run on a much more diverse range of platforms.

That will change with the release of Windows 9 and Yosemite when, finally, the two operating systems or an a more even keel. Read: Yosemite versus Windows 10 comparison

The Windows Experience Index is an indication of the way Windows perceives the performance of your computer

Though Windows has traditionally been built to run on older hardware, it won’t always run well. That’s why Microsoft started to include the “Windows Experience Index” feature from Windows Vista onwards. It gives users a score out of 9.9 (in the case of Windows 8) telling you how well Windows will perform on your system.

Windows 8 (more properly, Windows 8.1 in the version we're comparing) runs on modest systems, maintaining a level of backwards compatibility with 32 bit computing that Apple abandoned in 2010, with Lion. However, Windows 9 will be Microsoft’s first 64 bit only consumer operating system. It’s way past time for this and fair play to Microsoft for supporting legacy systems for so long. The Core range of processors, still much used in enterprise, is eight years old - and is 64 bit capable, for example.

About This Mac details your system specification

Yosemite and Apple are much more about supporting current architectures. For example, you’ll only be able to take advantage of Yosemite’s enhanced mobile integration if you have devices capable of running iOS 8. An iphone older than the 4S won’t cut it - though iPad support goes all the way back to iPad 2.

Despite that, Yosemite isn’t quite as ruthless in its abandonment of hardware support as previous versions. If your Mac runs Mavericks, it should run Yosemite. With the release of Windows 9, that’ll put both operating systems on a level - at least in their consumer versions. Read: MacBook versus Windows laptop

Windows vs Mac OS X Yosemite: Mobile integration

AirDrop felt about half finished when it first appeared in OS X 10.7. A wifi feature that enables you to exchange files between proximate Macs seemed neat, but had niche appeal. Great for enterprise and design studios - not brilliant for everyone else.

Now, finally, AirDrop works between iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 - and suddenly it makes sense. The same goes for iCloud, come to think of it, which has been given time to evolve since the MobileMe switchover debacle and is now, finally, coming into its own as a service that unites iOS and OS X.

But it’s no longer just about AirDrop and iCloud. Another group of features deserve a bit of the spotlight. Continuity enables you to use your iOS device seamlessly with your OS X computer. You can start an email on your iPad,  then finish it off on your MacBook. The browser tabs you had open in iOS safari pop you when you continue your session on OS X.

Continuity gets even more impressive when we get to device integration features. Knowing your iPhone’s nearby, your Mac will prompt you to use it as an internet hotspot if there are no other connections available. You can compose SMS message in Messages on your MacBook and send them via your phone. And so on.

Some of this functionality was actually already there, but was previously hidden or clumsy to implement. Continuity smoothes all that out.

So far, so marvellous. But, putting on our critic’s hat (which looks like a deerstalker with a propeller on it, fact fans) - Apple’s mobile compatibility is pretty much a closed loop. Try using Android with AirDrop. No - don’t do that, you’ll look silly.

How does Windows compare? There’s some similar functionality if you’re an adherent to the Microsoft ecosystem. You can sync favourites, history and tabs between IE on Windows Phone and Windows 8. You can store files using OneDrive and access them on both devices or use Office 360 apps between the two. But it’s neither as smart or seamless as AirDrop and Continuity. To be fair, neither was OS X until Yosemite. Read: How to run Windows on a Mac

Read more about Yosemite and the new features in our Yosemite Tutorials Zone.

If you are finding you can't get AirDrop to work between your Mac and iPhone or iPad read our guide to troubleshooting AirDrop

Windows vs Mac OS X Yosemite: Design

OS X Yosemite desktop

With Yosemite, Apple is continuing to flatten its design in tasteful, careful ways. Every core icon has been redesigned, every corner is a bit less round, every bevel a bit more subtle. You really notice this in Finder windows and dialogue boxes, where the red, yellow and green window buttons no longer pop-out like tiny LED bulbs and every trace of chrome has been banished. Yosemite’s, slightly translucent windows, text rendered in new system font Helvetica Neue and panels divided by several shades of grey are all reminiscent of iOS 7.

Read: Yosemite and Mavericks icons compared.

Windows 8: The desktop interface formerly known as Metro

As for Windows 8... What can you say? Some people like the interface formerly known as Metro - it’s scheme of primary colours on black. The tiled start screen would be a radical departure if it wasn’t hiding a desktop relatively unchanged from Windows 7 below it. A desktop, in point of fact, less functional than its previous iteration - with key features extracted.

Windows 9 screenshots suggest that, finally, the parts will now mesh. Windows are flat and grid like, as are the new Windows icons. It will ultimately come down to personal taste but, for us, the Yosemite approach to flat design is more subtle and pleasing to the eye. Read: Why Macs are better than PCs.

Windows vs Mac OS X Yosemite: UI Behaviour

Apple is developing two operating systems concurrently, one for mobile and one for computers.  iOS and OS X are converging towards the same point, at a stately pace.

With the release of Windows 8 Microsoft went a step further, by making their desktop operating system a tablet operating system. They did that by bolting a new layer over the old Windows desktop - a tile-based touchscreen interface.

It didn’t win many fans and, over a series of updates, Microsoft sought to fix most of what consumers were complaining about.

Now Windows 9 is-a-coming and initial previews suggest that Microsoft is thoroughly fixing the mess it made in Windows 8. We know, for example, that Windows 9 will bring back the Start menu and get rid of the reviled Charm bar.

Apple has had the good sense to keep the desktop and Dock front and central in the UI, allowing them to slowly deprecate elements that don’t fit over time rather than backtrack rapidly, tripping over its shoelaces.

For example, the Widget Dashboard, introduced way back in OS X Tiger (10.4) is edging ever closer to the door in Yosemite. It’s still there - you can still enable it in Mission Control’s Preferences. But with the enhanced Notification Centre, will you miss it? Read: Tips for using System Preferences.

Read: Doesn't Windows 10 sound rather like OS X to you...

Windows vs Mac OS X Yosemite: Notification Centre vs Charm Bar

It’s a bit ironic that as Windows 9 bins the Charm Bar for a restyled Start menu, Yosemite edges closer to functionality that Microsoft dumped after Windows 7...

The Notification Centre is now the location for Apple’s take on Widgets. That’s why the Dashboard’s now switched off by default. Windows users will remember that Windows Vista and Windows 7 had the Windows Sidebar. That was where Windows Gadgets lived. Gadgets, Widgets, Widgets, Gadgets. Try saying that ten times while patting your head and rubbing your tummy.

It’s a sensible place for them to be; a sidebar that slides into view on demand (rather than a separate screen that takes up all of the space). Guess what Windows 8 does with Gadgets? It’s phased them out and and replaced them with Apps in the Start screen. So, Apple deprecates a full screen overlay and puts Widgets in a sidebar and Microsoft deprecates their sidebar and puts Gadgets in a full screen overlay. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Windows vs Mac OS X Yosemite: Spotlight vs Search

One thing that Windows 8 does quite well is search. It has to, because everything’s so well hidden in Windows 8 that sometimes the only way to find a utility or app is to search for it... But it’s not quite as good as the spiffy revamp Spotlight has had in Yosemite. Read: Tips for using Spotlight

Spotlight is now a bona fide app - a global, desktop search tool with full pane previews for results on your devices and out on the net. And when you start to think about why Apple might want to do that, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist studying brain surgery to conclude that this is a pre-emptive strike against Apple’s other big rival; Google.

As operating systems evolve, we’re more reliant on cloud based apps, storage and search. Google has some clear advantages here, with its popular cloud application service Google Docs and online storage tool Drive.

It makes sound business sense for Apple to encourage you away from Google and linger in their ecosystem.

See:

Windows vs Mac OS X Yosemite: Summary

Now - here’s where we have to speculate a bit. Apple dropped a bomb with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, priced at £25 in 2009. Then OS X 10.7 Lion debuted at £13.99, with the same price for its follow up Mountain Lion.

But last year’s release of Mavericks brought the biggest change to the market of all; it was released for free.

Some pundits have taken this to mean that Microsoft will have to follow suit with Windows 9 and either deeply discount the consumer editions of Windows or make it available for free. If that happens, it will be a departure for Microsoft.

Right now it will cost you £99.99 to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Or you can go straight with Windows 8.1 for the same price. Keep in mind that this was Microsoft’s pricing through two iterations of OS X.

Want additional networking features and support for up to 512GB of RAM on a Windows PC? Windows 8.1 Pro is £189.99. To add similar network features to Yosemite, you need OS X Server. It costs £13.99.

Still - the rumours that Windows 9 will be a free upgrade for 8.1 users persist. So, let’s go out on a limb here. We think that if the basic version of Windows 9 is offered as a free upgrade to consumers, the Pro and Enterprise versions won’t be. Microsoft simply can’t afford to do that.

Though the Redmond developer has claimed it’s shifting away from software towards devices, it’s taken Microsoft several attempts to make a tablet computer that people don’t openly laugh at. Microsoft’s core business is still enterprise software - and it will be for a few years to come.

Read our review of OS X Server (Yosemite). Read How to use Safari on the Mac, Yosemite Safari tips

OUR VERDICT

In summary, how do we think Yosemite fairs against Windows? We say, very well indeed. Yosemite is ahead of the game in so many ways. We know that we’re Macworld and that could be dismissed as fannish denial, but Microsoft has history with this - trust us. Windows is weighed down by so much legacy, by an enterprise way of doing things, that the consumer product is always going to be carrying that ballast with it. Even in its trimmed-down incarnation destined for hobby-room desktop PCs and the kid’s Surface tablet. The web is the most important thing that happened in computing for decades and, in the 90s, it caught Microsoft completely off-guard. It took a while for them to turn the ship around and build their first successful web browser. Now the same thing is happening with devices and mobile. Apple has a lead here because of the iPhone’s success. It has swiftly and effectively developed a pair of operating systems that work with the cloud and that are getting better at it. Though, iCloud pricing is - for us - a potential stumbling block, Microsoft has so far failed to catch up. But, here’s the rub. When Steve Ballmer resigned as Microsoft CEO in February 2014, he did it so that Microsoft could turn the ship around again. In his leaving speech he promised that the company would refocus on the changing industry; on devices and mobile. And when Microsoft sets its mind on something, it usually succeeds. Everyone has a right to salvation, after all. Our comparison with Windows 10 could be a much, much closer call.

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