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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

OS X is frequently underappreciated for its compatibility with corporate resources. It supports Microsoft's SMB file sharing; it supports Open Directory and Active Directory; it supports corporate VPNs; and its email, calendar, task, and notes apps all support Exchange out of the box, though some enterprises have reported odd compatibility issues with Exchange calendars.

The Safari browser is also much more compatible with the current and emerging HTML standards than Microsoft's Internet Explorer, despite Microsoft's update to IE11 in Windows 8.1. For example, IE11 scores 355 out of 500 points in the tests, up from IE10's 320, but well short of 400 in OS X Mavericks' Safari 7, 414 in Mozilla's Firefox 24, and 463 in Google's Chrome 29.

Value: Windows 8.1 vs. OS X Mavericks
Windows 8.1: 7
OS X Mavericks: 10

OS X Mavericks is clearly the better value, offering more capability and ease-of-use — the two factors that matter most to the public — than Windows 8. In addition, the psychic price of Windows 8's split personality is quite high, even with Windows 8.1's ability to better hide the Metro side.

Apple's free upgrade price for Mavericks is hard to beat. But Microsoft has sort of matched it with Windows 8.1, which is free to Windows 8 users. If you're running a prior version of Windows, Windows 8.1 Pro costs $200. If you're running OS X Snow Leopard or later, you can upgrade to Mavericks at no charge. Also, you don't need to do an intermediate upgrade first, as Window 8.1 requires if you have Windows XP or Vista.

For enterprises, OS X may have a higher cost for IT, at least initially, as staff must learn to manage and support the OS and the company must invest in tools to achieve the same level of management as the tools already purchased for Windows allow. Mac users tend to require less support than PC users, but that may be because most Mac users choose the platform and are thus more likely to be self-supporting in the first place.

How it all adds up: Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion
Windows 8.1: 7.8
OS X Mavericks: 8.7

Clearly, OS X Mavericks is a better operating system than Windows 8.1. It's better designed, more capable, and — contrary to many people's beliefs — supportive of mainstream business security and management needs. But Windows supports a much wider universe of apps, so many people legitimately can use only a PC.

The misguided UI mismatch in Windows 8 caused many users to look for alternatives -— or to simply stick with Windows 7. If you're in the market for a new PC, you should get one running Windows 7 while you still can (they're available online). If you must get a PC with Windows 8.1, the good news is that it is more tolerable than Windows 8. The bad news is that it's still basically Windows 8, so if you want a new computer, move to a Mac, using a Windows virtual machine as a transition aid.


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