But while Microsoft introduces the world to Vista, Apple is keeping mum about its next version of Mac OS X, which Steve Jobs has said will ship at about the same time as Vista.
It is the Intel-ready Leopard, not Tiger, that will be Apples answer to Windows Vista.
With the first Vista beta, Microsoft seems to have taken many cues from Mac OS X with the user interface and features, right down to some of the terminology.
Even some of Vistas icons are amazingly similar to those in Tiger.
For instance, theres the interface names, Apples Aqua and Microsofts Aero.
In Vista, "My Documents" and "My Computer" are now "Computer" and "Documents," as they are in Mac OS X.
The search icon in the Vista beta is almost identical to Tigers Spotlight icon, except that the magnifying glass turns the other way.
Vista buttons and other interface details have a shiny bulbous look similar to those in Mac OS X.
The more-advanced Aero Glass option uses translucent window title bars, a handy feature of Mac OS X that Apple dropped with Panther, but is still used in the Dock.
Vista does, however, have some nice touches that Tiger doesnt. Vista places previews of documents right on file icons. These are more sophisticated than the thumbnails that Photoshop creates, as they update as the file is changed. Tiger can display previews of graphic files, but not text-based files.
Vistas folders display a representation of the type of files inside. Dialog boxes for saving files and other tasks use these thumbnails. Tiger does not have the ability to automatically display thumbnails on folder icons.
The Vista icons and previews are scalable to different sizes and can scale up to 128 by 128 pixels.
File Management and Searching
Many of Vistas file management features will be familiar to Tiger users, but Vista goes further in file management techniques.
Vista folder windows have a search-as-you-type search field, a feature that Mac OS X has had since Jaguar in 2002, but which became dramatically faster in Tiger with the Spotlight search engine.
Spotlight also added the searching of the contents of various types of files and e-mail messages, as well as searching on metadata.
Vistas search engine can do all of this as well, and lets you add metadata in Windows Explorer.
You can add metadata in Tiger, using the Spotlight field in the Get Info window, but Vista offers multiple fields for keywords, rating, project and others.
Vista also borrows Tigers Smart folders, calling them Virtual Folders. This feature automatically creates shortcut files based on criteria set by the user and places them in a folder. (Tigers Smart Folder does this with aliases.)
Vista adds the idea of stacks, where files that use a certain keyword are listed. When you add a file to the stack, the keyword is automatically added to the stack.
Vista will also have file management features that neither Tiger nor Windows XP has. A new backup system will record incremental changes to a file and copy them to a protected area.
One of the useful features that Mac OS X has always had is that PDF is built into its core.
PDF is used for displaying and printing files, and Mac OS X has the ability to turn any document created by any application into a PDF file.
With Windows Vista, Microsoft will attempt to do the same, but not with PDF.
Vista will use a new universal format called Metro, based on XML, for viewing and printing files. The aim is consistency of documents on screen and in print.
This is something that Mac OS has always been superior to Windows, even before Mac OS X. It remains to be seen how successful Metro will be.