Home > Mac News > Panther vs. XP: Worth the Upgrade?

Panther vs. XP: Worth the Upgrade?

September 26th, 2003

A comment came through on the post I wrote on Panther, and I thought the comment was worth its own post. The comment, from Paul, read as:

Apple has charged its users $129 twice, for two OS X upgrades (Jaguar and Panther), since the first version shipped; Microsoft has charged for XP just once, and XP Home costs less than OS X. So it’s safe to say it’s far more expensive to stay up to date with OS X than it is with XP, which has seen only free or low-cost (Plus! Digital Media Edition for Windows XP, $20) enhancements since it was first released. Apple, still playing catch-up, is charging a lot of money for the privilege.

Paul was right on the pricing, I thought XP Home was $300, not $200. But if one can get academic pricing on OS X, one can still get it on the cheap. And yes, the XP upgrade package can be had for $100.

However, if you wait three years between OS upgrades like you have to with Windows, you can upgrade straight from OS 9 to Panther–no one is forcing you to get 10.1 or Jaguar. That makes the price difference for the upgrade $130 for the Mac (no discounts considered) and $100 for Windows. Throw in educational pricing, though, and the Mac is in fact cheaper than XP! Also, for those who prefer not to break the EULA, Apple offers a family-pack version, up to 5 users for $200.

As for the “enhancements” Paul mentions, the vast majority are security updates that cover holes in the OS that shouldn’t have been there in the first place; the others are simple incremental upgrades. And OS X gets them free as well, they’re simply not so numerous, but provide much better feature enhancement. As for “Plus! Digital Media,” it’s paying $20 for stuff that comes free in OS X.

Still, even for those getting the new version of OS X every chance they get (like me–I paid for the original public beta and Jaguar), I feel that upgrading your Mac OS X is worth far more than XP, for several reasons.

First, the upgrades are more significant. I use Windows 2000 at school, and Windows XP at home, and aside from the improvements in appearance, there is really very little new that I see in XP that is useful to me. OK, they got fast user switching in the upgrade (I don’t use it), there’s a remote assistance feature Mac doesn’t support in-house (again I don’t use it), and you can see icons with visual document previews. Almost everything else they tout about the upgrade is simply new versions of tie-in apps like Explorer and Windows Media Player–not software I would call first-class by any means, and not upgrades that knock my socks off at all.

In short, by going from 2000 to XP, you got a nice facade makeover and a few new features, but really not much else.

But going from OS 9 to Panther, there is a world of difference. The changes were far more than eye candy–though OS X’s eye candy is fantastic, and beats XP’s hands-down. You also got superb functionality: a brand-new kernel, UNIX, providing much better stability and power. Quartz and Quartz Extreme, which make the eye candy work better and which compromise processor workload less. The Dock, which is far better than the Windows Task Bar and does much more. Expose, which handles window sorting and display with a panache that Windows can’t even come close to. Rendezvous networking, and all the other networking tweaks that allow for cross-platform access (Windows doesn’t even bother). The fast-find feature in the Finder window, now way faster in Panther. Fast user switching (executed in a cooler fashion than XP). Improved font management, fax controls, PDF viewing and authoring, compression, file encryption, and a ton of other stuff as well. Stuff like the Zoom option, which is great in OS X, but badly implemented in Windows. And stuff which Windows can’t come close to doing, like switching the main language of the operating system.

Next, there’s the large suite of free applications that come with the Mac OS:

iTunes — A truly fantastic MP3 player that puts WMP to shame. Intuitive, feature-rich, works beautifully with the iPod.

iMovie — If you haven’t used it with OS X to make movies, you don’t know how easy it is. Makes it possible to create movies with surprising levels of control and effects.

iPhoto — Not the best cataloging tool, to be sure–it runs slowly on all but the fastest Macs, doesn’t have very elegant file organization, and has limited photo editing controls. But it still is acceptable, despite being the least impressive of the iApps.

iDvd — The one iApp I don’t use, but it is way cool for doing what it does, making video DVDs at home with ease-of-use that Windows can’t give you.

iLife — An amalgamation of the prior four apps, but worth mentioning because of the suite functionality between those four apps, blending their operational abilities splendidly. OK, iLife isn’t free if you don’t get a DVD-equipped Mac–but $50 ain’t too steep for what you get. And if you don’t use iDVD, like me, then you still get the inter-operability of the other iLife apps, for free.

Mail — A very good email app, equal to Outlook Express and approaching Eudora. Just one upgrade away from being my default mail app. And the spam filter beats out anything in Outlook.

Address Book — Simple, but intuitive and interacts very well with other apps.

iCal — Does an excellent job; still not as feature-rich as it could be, but is strongly on its way.

iChat — Text, voice and video messaging done better than Messenger, with better inter-operability. I can’t tell you the hassles I’ve had making voice and video work well using Messenger on PCs.

iSync — Does what it says, and very well, too.

Safari — To wrap up the package, a strong new entry into the browser market. Unlike Microsoft, which at first offers a broken-down piece of c*** and then gradually makes it bearable, Apple presents good software straight out of the gate. I still prefer Mozilla, but Safari is far better than Explorer already, and like Mail, is one upgrade away from being my app of choice.

And with the Mac being virtually virus-free, you don’t need to shell out the bucks for a virus-protection program, which is absolutely essential for Windows machines.

The only thing missing is a suite of Office applications–and with Keynote in the bag, that suite is not far off, with Document and a spreadsheet app expected soon. And Keynote sells for $100, versus $230 for Powerpoint. A Mac office suite will likely sell for a similarly low price.

Add the general ease-of-use (as an example, look at the Find File process on both OS’s and you’ll see what I mean), the smooth inter-operability of Apple software & between hardware and software, and the lower maintenance needs–it’s no contest as far as I am concerned.

All in all, you get way more for your upgrades from Apple. And as for an upgrade every year, would you really rather wait three years to see great new improvements come out? Yeah, it’s a pain to pay–but you get far more bang for your buck.

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  1. Eamonn
    February 9th, 2005 at 16:55 | #1

    You can change the operating system’s main language in Windows XP MUI (Multi-lingual User Interface)

  2. Bob Dobolina
    March 25th, 2005 at 10:11 | #2

    Interesting article. I skipped Panther, and now it’s sort of too late, I think. I’m waiting for Tiger at this point (I hear it’s due out in mid-April). I run both XP and OS X, and I think they’re both great. I definitely couldn’t get along without XP, though, and if it came down to choosing one, I think I’d have to go with XP. Here’s why:

    iTunes — Works great in Windows.

    iMovie — A cool app, but I never use it. Probably never will. I don’t use Windows Movie Thingee either.

    iPhoto — “Not the best cataloging tool.” A vast understatement, right? I use iView on my Mac and Picasa (free from Google, and blows iPhoto away in every way) on my PC. iPhoto looks cool, but it kinda sucks.

    iDvd — “The one iApp I don’t use.” Me either.

    iLife — I use Pro Tools on my crappy little G3 iBook and it runs great. GarageBand is sort of a resource-hogging joke in comparison (you can’t use the MIDI instruments unless you have a G4, and it really doesn’t work that well unless you’re running a G5). Pro Tools works great on my Windows machine as well, but for some reason I prefer working on music on my Mac.

    Mail — Fairly sucks. So does Entourage. Thunderbird rocks. So does Outlook.

    Address Book — I use Thunderbird on my Mac so the Mac Address Book is redundant. Pretty-looking but redundant.

    iCal — It’s real nice. But the Mac version of the Palm Desktop stinks and iCal support for Palm devices is weak and the Palm Desktop for Windows is great. Windows wins this one easily.

    iChat — Whatever…

    iSync — “Does what it says, and very well, too.” Except that there’s no Mac Conduit for a Clie’ and iSync won’t sync my Mail to my Palm device, which totally sucks.

    Safari — Nice, but Thunderbird renders CSS the way it’s written. If Thunderbird looked as nice as Safari, it would be perfect.

    The killer apps that make me stick with a PC for my business (which is what I use a computer for most of the time) are Outlook (which I couldn’t do without), Palm Desktop (which I couldn’t do without) and QuickBooks (another app where the Mac version just doesn’t cut it). And the Dreamweaver interface on a Mac is stupid and ugly compared to the slick SDI on a PC.

    To be fair, Office for Mac is much nicer than the PC version and Mac OS comes with a lot nicer software than Windows.

    You really wanted to hear all this, right? *:o)

    Peace out.

  3. ST Takana
    May 7th, 2005 at 18:14 | #3

    The thing that bugs me most is Windows user always think their version change are new version where Mac version change is just an upgrade!
    I guess they got confused when they saw the 10.1, 10.2, 10.3… Maybe if
    Steve would had named it differently like OS2001, OS2002, OS2003, etc…
    then they would could it defferent version!
    But I guess that’s what Windows does to their brain!!!
    For heaven sack at least looked at the whole number if they haven’t!!!
    10.3 is not an upgrade of 10.2! But 10.3.9 is an upgrade 10.3.8 and it’s FREE
    too!!! Every upgrade of its respective version (eg:10.1.x, 10.2.x, 10.3.x) are all free. I m sure the latest 10.4.x will all be free! I upgrade my OSX from
    10.3.4 to the current 10.3.9 and it is all free – I don’t think there is anyone paying for such upgrade!
    I can tell you who pay for their upgrade – Those who upgraded their Windows 95 to 95b then 95c then to 98 then to 98se then to ME!!! Haven’t they look at it themself ???
    Now you may argue that those are all defferent versions just like mac argued that their 10.1 to 10.4 are all defferent too.
    I switched to mac about a year ago and realised that Windows ME = 98se =
    98 = 95c = 95b = 95 = windows 3.X = DOS !!!

  4. Luis
    May 7th, 2005 at 18:33 | #4

    It’s true that I hear Windows users talking about “upgrades” to XP as if it were the same as upgrades from Mac OS X 10.2 to 10.3 to 10.4 and so on, which is indeed laughable–After XP was released, the only “upgrades” have been bug fixes and security updates. And Even when Windows does have a “full” upgrade (e.g. 2000 to XP) the changes are more cosmetic than anything else. The NT kernel was the last real upgrade to the Windows line; it’s hard to think of much the average user could make use of with the switch between 2000 and XP.

  5. Luis
    May 29th, 2005 at 20:39 | #5

    The first comment mentioned that one can change the native OS language in Windows with a MUI pack. However, I’ve learned that MUIs are not free, are not available via retail, and only work on top of English-language versions of Windows. So you’ve got to be in on some volume purchase of Windows, and only then will it provide a not-quite-full switch to another language, and only if you start from English. For example, if you buy a Windows machine in Japan with Japanese XP, you’re screwed.

    On the other hand, Macs come with 15 languages pre-installed, no extra charge, and the switch is easy and complete.

  6. gmav
    November 7th, 2005 at 22:43 | #6

    I’m slowly learning Mac OSX. Why? I grew very tired of the intrusions to XP; download this patch, get security update 9y762z1x3, you will need service pack 1, and after this…you will need service pack 2, and on and on it went. Windoze 98 did not have this many holes in it. The best combo I’ve found is Panther with Mozilla Firefox browser and Thunderbird Mail. Log on with this and you will be chugging along with nary a hitch. Both are nice Operating Systems but one was NOT ready for the consumer. I do not wish to be downloading patches and security alerts when I can be cruising with little or no problems. As for style and grace?……OSX wins again.

  7. Neville
    March 12th, 2006 at 11:43 | #7

    Well, now it’s Tiger time. And I’ll say this, Spotlight is awesome. It’s the best searhc tool out there. I love it. Love to use it. BUT, never really need to use it. I keep track of my files pretty well. Keep them all in one place. Okay, so Mac is pretty. XP? It’s something not so pretty. But I’m not dating the operating system or trying to get in its pants. I’m trying to get work done. So it should do that. Work well. And I’m a photographer. I deal with lots of files that are rather large. So I had this iBook, because I have to have portability and battery life. I don’t even have a desktop. ibook, 1.125 gb of ram, thought I’d upgrade the Harddrive to a 60GB 5400RPM model. NO CAN F-ING DO! Without a major hassle. Have to leave it with the Geniuses and don’t have the time, plus a hundred bucks. Or take it apart, void the warranty and spend at least a whole day doing so, because it takes 50 screws and total disassembly of an iBook to upgrade the HD. Okay, got external drive. Mac writes files to external drive and then cant’ find them. well, it finds them but locks up when accessing many of them. Many of my most important photos were inaccessible with the mac. So used sister’s PC, BINGO! So then using P-shop with 1.125GB of RAM. That’s a lot more than I ever had on a PC. And I heard Macs were fast. Well, P-shop locks and crashes almost each initial launch on respective days or boots of the machine. first launch, CRASH! That totally sucks. And bridge too. Not only that I don’t ever know if the thing is doing anything, until it’s done. Not very intuitive. Macs don’t communicate well to the user…oh, that’s right they don’t have to, my ass. What about when you’re trying to write a CD with that bassackwards utility? On a PC it’s so simple it’s almost an insult to my intinkerance. Color is great on Mac, but color me very pissed off at having to re-boot the machine each time I forget to sanitize a DVD that I want to watch. One fingerprint and the system freezes. Not just the DVD player, the whole system. Force Quit? Not quite. No good. Won’t do it. Re-boot. clean DVD. Still crashes, in a different place. In PC a dirty DVD crashes the app, not the system. So now I have a new PC with 1.125 GB of RAM (that’s right borrowed a GB module from iBook) and a brand new 60GB 5400 RPM HD and I took the factory HD out to use as an external drive at 80GB (warranty still intact!). Also, I have yet to crash either Bridge or P-shop and I’ve opened sixteen 13 mb RAW files one time. And worked on all of them in Bridge then brought them to P-shop and bridge remained open (it’s a resource hog on either system)…no problem. No crashing. Yes, there’s a lot of crap out there that seems to affect PC’s. But I’ve never had virus problems on a PC. And I know for a fact that Macs run spyware too. Seen it happen. and I wont’ lie, I still love to look at the Mac interface, but not when it’s all tied in knots. And win media player is a great app that requires more of a learning curve than ITunes. Which is also a great app, but does not do as much. Does not erase a CD, does not play video (and Windows media files are smaller and better quality than quicktime nagware files. Yeah, every freakin’ week there’s a new version of the quicktime player.), and doesn’t tell you what it’s doing half the time, though I really do like it. And it also is a better app on a PC. It just is. Oh and try creating a contact sheet from photo files in the finder. Good luck. You’d have to use slow-ass iphoto. On the PC, you just select the files you want on your contact sheet from files in explorer, any explorer and rigth click and select print and next step select contact sheet. EASY! Not well-dcoumented, but EASY and quick like do it, it’s done. PC faster, hotter. Mac slower, longer battery life. Can’t handle starting p-shop. Very slow (unless you have dual processors). Pretty though.

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