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1/24/2006
05:24 PM
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Behind The Times

I know a few professional designers, including some who do user-interface work. As you might expect, they're a pretty tech-savvy bunch -- and they certainly try stay abreast of the latest technology news. And then, on the other hand, you have the developers and design-firm executives quoted in a recent story about Microsoft's new Expression Graphic Designer tools. I don't know what

I know a few professional designers, including some who do user-interface work. As you might expect, they're a pretty tech-savvy bunch -- and they certainly try stay abreast of the latest technology news.

And then, on the other hand, you have the developers and design-firm executives quoted in a recent story about Microsoft's new Expression Graphic Designer tools. I don't know what any of these folks do in their spare time, but I'll hazard a guess that it doesn't involve a burning interest in current events.Here's the news they missed: The "platform" gap between the Mac and Windows started closing a few minutes after Steve Jobs finished his Macworld keynote last June; by the time Windows Vista ships, it will look more like a crack in the sidewalk. Apple has, in fact, already nodded and winked at the notion of its systems dual-booting OS X and Windows. That's smart thinking on Apple's part, because with on-chip virtualization technology expected to arrive on Intel and AMD hardware some time this year, the question of running Windows --and Linux, too, for that matter -- on Mac hardware would be moot unless Apple went to ridiculous (and even then, unsuccessful) lengths to prevent it.

I'm looking forward to watching this new era of direct, head-to-head competition between OS X and Windows. It will be fascinating to watch Microsoft deal with pressure to keep up with Apple's user interface advances and with the Mac's open-souce core operating system (from which Apple will reap more benefits than it ever dreamed of seeing on the PowerPC platform). And while Microsoft continues to dawdle and delay with WinFS (currently entering its second decade as a coming attraction), Apple has quietly upgraded OS X to support arbitrarily extensible file system metadata: a technology that is far more important than its name might suggest, and one that reflects the efforts of one of the company's most interesting new hires since Steve Jobs came back to Cupertino.

Perhaps most of all, I'm looking forward to Apple's Intel shift because it will render so many of the age-old Windows vs. Mac compatibility issues irrelevant, without diminishing the tech industry's grandest rivalry. The issues that remain are, of course, non-trivial, but they're practically begging for solutions -- and there will be plenty of developers devoting their time and talent to obliging them.

Someone break the news to these guys: whining about Mac users and Windows users living in different worlds is so 2005 -- and by this time next year, they won't even be living on different computers.

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