Longhorn and Tiger: Whos Copying Whom?

The bigger question: What does it matter? Let the features ultimately compete on their own merits.

Now that Apple has previewed publicly its "Tiger" Mac OS X 10.4 release, everyones raring to pit Tiger against "Longhorn."

And theres plenty of fodder for a grudge match. Both Apple and Microsoft are set to showcase new search systems, built-in RSS readers, new scripting shells and 64-bit support in their next-gen operating systems.

But instead of focusing on features and functionality, many operating system (OS) aficionados—from Apple CEO Jobs on down—are dwelling on the no-win contest regarding whos the biggest copy cat.

Apple threw down the gauntlet earlier this week with the Tiger banners displayed prominently at the Worldwide Apple Developer Conference. "Introducing Longhorn: Redmond, Start Your Photocopiers," they proclaimed.

"Theyre copying our concepts," whined Apple CEO Jobs to the New York Times. "Id kind of like to get credit some time."


Microsoft backers were quick to defend the Redmond software vendor, claiming that some of the estimated 150 new features that will be part of Tiger were part of Windows back as far as Windows 95. Others said it was ludicrous to position a "mere point release" like 10.4 to an operating system that is being rearchitected from the core programming interfaces on up.

As Longhorn evangelist Robert Scoble noted on his blog, "Figuring out who is copying whom is quite a chore."

But theres an even more fundamental question at stake in the Tiger vs. Longhorn debate: Who CARES who is copying whom?

Its true that software vendors increasingly are seeking to patent everything from series of keystrokes to transparent windows. This trend toward relying on patent-license monies as a dependable revenue stream is worrisome for both independent software developers and non-indemnified customers (as the litigious SCO has proven).


For insights on the Mac in the enterprise, check out eWEEK.com Executive Editor Matthew Rothenbergs Weblog.

But in the case of Tiger vs. Longhorn, the more interesting points to ponder are features. Why not look at some of the areas where alpha and beta testers already can begin to compare apples to apples (no pun intended)?


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