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.