I've been a Mac/PC user for almost a full year now - it's very hard to believe that last June, I took a (very expensive) gamble on a platform of which I knew nothing about and as a result, emerged with a totally new perspective on something that I had always shunned.

Over the past year, I've brought a handful of Mac related articles to AnandTech, covering everything from the mobile experience of Mac OS X to a look at the new Mac mini.  Through it all, my Mac usage has proved itself to be more than just a phase. My Macs are now just as much a part of my daily routine as my PCs. 

I'll run into people at trade shows and they are shocked by the fact that I'll actually be typing on a PowerBook (as if it is some sort of a surprise to actually use hardware that you recommend).  A few weeks back, I went down to AMD to talk about dual core and I even was commended by a few employees for bringing a "neutral" laptop to AMD, instead of my normal Pentium M based notebook. 

The reaction is always interesting, but to me, it's a non-issue; I'm not a switcher, but rather a dual user.  As such, I think my perspective on things tends to be a little different than most.  The Mac vs. PC debate almost always ends up being just as touchy of a subject as religion or politics, making it difficult to get a balanced perspective on anything relating to what's on the other side of the fence. 

I can hardly consider myself an expert on Macs, but I do see myself as someone who is genuinely interested in them; which is why when Apple started talking about the features in Mac OS X Tiger, I found myself just as intrigued as I would be talking to any PC manufacturer about a new product.   Apple's PR doesn't work the same way that PC manufacturers do; they are extremely secretive. NDAs and roadmaps just generally don't come from Apple, so I knew that if I wanted to get early experience with Tiger, I would have to go around Apple PR. 

Luckily, early on in Tiger's development, Apple created a Tiger Early Start program for developers through their Apple Developer Connection (ADC) website.  The Early Start program was designed for developers to get access to Tiger and to be able to develop for all of its new technologies. For me, it was a way to get access to monthly builds of Tiger and gain a ton of experience with the OS over the past several months. 

In order to get a good feel for the OS, I had to make sure that I had Tiger installed on a computer that I used regularly, but I didn't dare install a very beta OS on my main desktop.  Instead, I made my PowerBook the Tiger test bed, since it is something that I use regularly, yet on which I do not store extremely important data (I always had a copy of everything on my desktop and on my file server).  So, for the past several months, I used Tiger on my PowerBook, updating it whenever there was a new beta released.  However, I did wait to finish this article until I had spent a good amount of time with the final build of Tiger, which begins shipping today (although, thankfully, some copies were shipped out earlier than expected).  So, although a lot of the work that went into this article was done on beta copies of Tiger, the final article wasn't written until I'd used the final build of the OS. 

As with previous versions of the Mac OS X, version 10.4 (Tiger) isn't a free upgrade; Tiger is priced at $129.  As with most Apple products, there are some hefty savings to be had if you are a student/educator and are purchasing through Apple's online store or in an actual Apple store.  If you are eligible for a student discount, Tiger's price tag drops down to just $69. 

Tiger's student pricing was a trigger for me to talk about how much I do appreciate Apple's pricing on their software; while I agree that their higher end hardware is a bit steep, their software licenses are extremely reasonable.  I didn't think twice about ordering the iWork suite as soon as it was launched because I knew that it had applications I wanted and I knew that the price would be reasonable. I can't say the same about successive iterations of Microsoft Office, for example (or even individual Office applications).  Apple doesn't do much to combat piracy of their software, and part of the reason is that they don't have such a large user base where piracy is as big of an issue as it is in the Windows world. But, it is also worth noting that given the price of most Apple software (even their professional software is priced very reasonably), it isn't something that most users would balk at. 

Given that Tiger is basically the price of a modest hardware upgrade, a lot of the OS must be evaluated on a value basis for upgraders.  While my previous Mac articles have focused on the entire package of hardware and software, this one is definitely different as the evaluation is done from the standpoint of an OS X 10.3 (Panther) user.  Obviously, all new Macs will come with Tiger, so the cost of the OS is already included in the total package price; but for everyone else who, like me, has purchased a relatively new Mac in recent history, there is a definite purchasing decision surrounding the move to Tiger.

How New is Tiger?

Cost of entry aside, there are a number of feature and performance improvements in Tiger that are worthy of evaluation.  Quantifying the "newness" of Tiger is difficult; Apple put together a list of over 200 new features that made it in to Tiger, but some of the list appears to be more of a way to increase "feature count" rather than listing truly individual features.

At the same time, there are a number of changes that have been made in Tiger that aren't feature-worthy, but are either positive bug fixes, or negative changes in the way that aspects of the OS work. 

I've done my best to go through both the little things and the major changes in Tiger, but as is the case with all of these Mac articles, I always finish the article feeling like there's still a lot more to talk about.  These Mac articles have become easier to write since the first nerve-racking one, but they continue to be uniquely difficult as a lot of it is just trying to convey feelings of an experience. 

That being said, if you are new to the Mac platform or are interested in knowing how I ended up in a situation where I'd be interested in reviewing Apple's latest OS, I strongly suggest that you go back and read my first two Mac experience articles.  For everyone else, let's get right to it.

Installing Tiger
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  • melgross - Sunday, May 01, 2005 - link

    #21 With all that you said, you didn't really say very much.

    Yes, it's true that Apple is mostly a hardware company. They will sell "only" a billion dollars of software this year.

    But what you forget is that every Mac that sells takes away a sale of a copy of Windows from MS. Apple will sell more that a million more computers this year than they sold last year. That's over a million fewer copies of Windows sold. As well as less copies of windows software by MS and others. It also means more copies of MS Office for the Mac sold.

    It's just dumb talking about "balls". This is a business. Maybe you like to play chicken, but companies that like to stay in business don't.

    Perhaps if Apple licensed the Mac OS to MS both times when MS came knocking on their door life would have been different. :)
    Reply
  • michael2k - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #21: If anyone compares Longhorn to Tiger, it's because Microsoft has decided it's a valid comparison:
    http://insight.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,39020463,391...

    Allchin has made public comments regarding Tiger, when talking about Longhorn.

    On a technical level, Longhorn is implementing many of the features that Tiger, Panther, and Jaguar have, so comparison is unavoidable:

    Avalon vs Quartz
    Metro vs PDF
    DB/WinFS vs Spotlight/HFS+
    etc
    Reply
  • Eug - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #20: "So while Apple keeps braying to the moon about "Longhorn" I, on the other hand, am content to wait until Longhorn actually ships before making any sort of comparisons as I would prefer any comparisons that might be made to have some *meaning*...;)"

    Uh... I should point out that the Apple Mac OS X pages don't have a single reference to Longhorn anywhere, AFAIK.
    Reply
  • Ocaid - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    The fact, "Jack", is that this is marketing and Apple does make nice hardware and a great OS for some people. And I do agree with some of your salient points. But for a company that "is not a direct competitor to MS", some of you guys sure seem to worry a lot about them. Reply
  • WaltC - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    I completely fail to understand this comparison with Longhorn...;) I mean, at one level I do understand it all too well--Apple PR, while completely ignoring Windows x64 as if it does not exist, enjoys boasting that it has "beaten" Longhorn out of the starting gate as a "64-bit" OS--but really this is just so very lame and completely transparent. Apple has always had an exquisite case of tunnel vision when it comes to picking and choosing what it will compare its products to...:D

    So this whole "Longhorn-Tiger" comparison is so predictible and infantile (as Tiger is shipping and Longhorn isn't--so nobody has a clue as to what Longhorn will be when it actually does ship a year or two from now) and right on par for Apple PR. So typical of Apple to compare its products with products that aren't shipping--wow, how much "safer" can you can get than that? So while Apple keeps braying to the moon about "Longhorn" I, on the other hand, am content to wait until Longhorn actually ships before making any sort of comparisons as I would prefer any comparisons that might be made to have some *meaning*...;)

    In this vein, I also wish that people would wake up and realize that Apple and Microsoft are not now direct competitors and never have been...;) Microsoft is software company--Apple is distinctly a hardware company--and the old saw in the industry is that the highest and best purpose for *any* Mac OS is that it serves as a dongle to protect and promote Apple's hardware sales.

    The classic mistake that I see so often is this misunderstanding that Microsoft and Apple somehow compete in the same markets--not true. Apple's competitors in reality are companies like Dell, etc., who--unlike Microsoft--make better than 90% of their net income from hardware sales. It's pretty simple, really, as >98% of Microsoft's net income is from the sale of software exclusive of hardware. The difference is so vast I am surprised it is so often overlooked. And yet it is...

    For instance, if Apple would decide to undertake to write an OS for the same x86 hardware standards that Microsoft does (Intel/AMD promulgated standards, mainly) *then* we could call them competitors with a straight face since they'd be competing for share in the same hardware markets. But the simple fact is that Microsoft doesn't even *make* the computers which run its OS's (and so of course cannot and does not profit directly from such hardware sales); but an Apple OS, on the other hand, is totally useless in the absence of an Apple designed-and-sold computer to run it. The enormous differences ought to be clear as daylight to everyone.

    Basically, the concept that an Apple OS is any sort of direct competition to a Microsoft OS is purely a wishful and irresponsible--not to mention inaccurate--fantasy. That's why talking about Apple's <3% share of the annual world-wide *desktop* computer market (which is far, far less in the exclusive server markets, or higher in the notebook markets, etc.)is somewhat of a bogus comparison in the first place. MS OS's serve "everybody else" apart from Microsoft (eg, Dell and the thousands of other companies manufacturing x86 PCs and components exclusive of Microsoft) while Apple's OS's serve only Apple-branded hardware exclusively. I am always surprised as to why this salient fact of the matter is so often ignored. But there it is...

    I'd love to see Apple competing directly with Microsoft in the much larger hardware arena of x86 platforms and standards--I would welcome the competition. But I honestly don't think Apple can compete in that market--and I believe that's exactly why Apple doesn't even try. I'd love to see Apple offer its own Apple-branded x86 PCs along with an Apple x86 OS which would run on "everybody else's" x86 box just as Microsoft's OS's currently do--but I'll tell you right now that I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on that to happen as I don't believe it ever will. Frankly, I don't believe Apple has either the balls or the brains or the will to do it--and that's the fact, Jack...:D
    Reply
  • michael2k - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #11: Obviously the article is not meant for you then. Does it occur to you that there are other reasons to use computers than play games? Video games are not the end all and be all of the computing experience. Reply
  • HansZarkow - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    Repeatedly reading about how buggy Tiger is makes me wonder, why Apple pushed the release. Panther was doing alright and Apple is generally rather thorough when it comes to that.

    I think Tiger was originally to be released in 2H05 around the same time that Longhorn was scheduled. Then Microsoft pushed the release date back a year. Now Apple faced the situation that they couldn't release 10.5 only a year after 10.4.
    So not only wouldn't they be able to react to some features that Longhorn might bring along, but they would also leave Microsoft an undistored PR-window where they would be mere spectators.

    Hence, Apple rushed the Tiger-release to 1H05, approximately 18 months after Panther. That gives them another 18 months to fine-tune 10.4 and come up with an answer to every feature that Longhorn might pack.
    It's the price of being Apple, the (self-proclaimed) technology-leader, they can't let Microsoft talk about the (possible) advantages of Longhorn for half a year.

    This makes sense from a PR point-of-view, but it is definetly unfair to the people buying 10.4 because I doubt it will see its full potential before 10.4.3
    Reply
  • vailr - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #13: Not correct! My 3.2 GHz P4/WinXP machine can run PearPC/MacOSX 10.3.9, with "About this Mac" info indicating that it's a "Mac G3 running at 1.32 GHz".
    So, would be interested to see whether: WinXP64/PearPC/MacOSX 10.4, running on an "upper echelon" AMD64 chip could compete, speedwise, with OSX Tiger, running on native Mac hardware?
    Reply
  • jasonsRX7 - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    I don't know if it's just because I'm more used to it, but I still like Quicksilver better than Spotlight. I find QS to be faster and more functional. Maybe Spotlight just needs to grow on me some more. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, April 30, 2005 - link

    #15 ... is that a joke (and coincedence) or an attempt to bring up the legal suit being brought against Apple by Tiger Direct for the use of the Tiger name?

    Haven't kept up with that much myself -- though it did seem fishy that they waited until this week to bring up the issue.

    http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/28/...
    Reply

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