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Deathmatch review: Windows 8.1 vs. OS X Mavericks

Galen Gruman | Oct. 24, 2013
Although you can now hide some of the Windows 8 dissonance, Windows 8.1 doesn't leap forward enough

Features: Windows 8.1 vs. OS X Mavericks
Windows 8.1: 7
OS X Mavericks: 9

Over the years, Apple has made OS X much more than an operating system. It's also a product suite, with a very capable email client, calendar manager, note-taker, browser, lightweight word processor, image editor/PDF markup tool, media player, and instant messaging client. If you buy a new Mac, you also get the very capable iPhoto, GarageBand, and iMovie apps for media manipulation and creation. Mavericks adds a mapping/navigation app and book reader to the mix. For many users, these apps are all they need. Beyond the assortment of moderately to highly capable apps, OS X has exceptional support for human languages and for people with various kinds of disabilities.

Windows 8 offers less than OS X across the board, partly because Microsoft wants people to buy or subscribe to its pricey Office suite, so tools such as WordPad and the Mail app in Metro provide only a subset of OS X's counterparts. (You can of course pay extra for Microsoft Outlook in the Windows Desktop to get a full email client for Windows.) But even where Microsoft doesn't have a product it wants to sell you — for example, media playback (Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Windows Media Player) and PDF markup (Reader) — its tools are decidedly inferior to OS X's (iTunes and Preview, respectively). Also, Metro's Mail app still doesn't support the oldest and most common types of email account (POP). Windows 8.1's services for sharing, notifications, and search are also both less capable and more clunkily implemented than OS X's equivalents.

Some of the Metro apps in Windows 8.1 are more functional than in Windows 8, and more like what's available in iOS and Android. For example, the Camera app now supports panoramic shooting and the Photos app allows for basic image manipulation such as cropping and color shifting, both like recent iOS and Android editions. But the music and video players, calendar, and PDF apps are decidely inferior to those in OS X, and the new Alarms app is inferior to what you get in iOS or Android, though OS X has no equivalent. Metro's Weather app is the most compelling of the Metro apps (and OS X has no built-in equivalent), and the Sports app remains a nicely customizable gateway to your favorite sports content.

Also new to Windows 8.1 are apps for scanning documents (long built in to OS X's Preview and Image Capture apps, where it makes more sense to integrate scanning capability) and maintaining reading lists of Web documents (which OS X's Safari has had for some time, and again a more sensible location for this capability). The new Calculator app is very much like OS X's ancient version. Microsoft seems to be throwing widgets into Metro to increase the list of features, rather than creating a suite of compelling apps.


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