I am far too much of a newbie to be able to look at the new OS coming from both Apple and Microsoft to be of any help technically. But I do believe I can see potential and I have to like what I see from both. Apple will deliver OSX 10.4 also known as Tiger some time in 2005. I find it rather comical that many people have downloaded the Preview Release(PR) given to the developers who attended the World Wide Developers Conference June 28th of this year and can't make any sense of it. That's because the PR contains only the necessary functions for "developers" to test the new API and plan their development strategies. If you download Tiger and expect to see a bunch of new life changing features you will sorely be disappointed. Looking deeper at Tiger we see that Apple has remained true to its core competency, which is graphics. Of particular note Core Image and Core Video API allow for image and video processing to happen on the local GPU graphics card at real time speeds. These same effects today would sap precious CPU computing power so this benefits users in 2 ways. It pushes this processing to the GPU, which is much faster than the CPU at processing these effects and at the same time frees up the CPU to focus on other areas.
This is very similar to the speed boost computer gaming received when games were able to utililize the newest graphics card that contained Transform & Lighting on the card itself rather than burden the CPU with this task. Games instantly became faster and quality improved greatly. Look for Core Image and Video to do the same. I've seen Apple's new Motion apps aimed at adding motion graphics to video. It's an amazing app. Rather than make adjustments and view the effect in a small preview window, in Motion your application window "is" the preview window and you simply work in real time or close to it as you build your project. Productivity should skyrocket anytime you can do complex or creative tasks in real time. I predict in 2 years the shift to real time processing will be so swift and complete that we all will quickly forget the "old days" when even iMovie had to render transitions. That's a good thing.
Spotlight is another great technology that on the surface looks rather pedestrian.Some Mac users today don't understand what's so special about Spotlight when we've been indexing in Mac OS for years. Rather than give you a diatribe I'll point you to the excellent John Gruber article that explains the wonder that is Spotlight. Searching is a learned behavior, I frequently have heard people say they wouldn't use Spotlight. This is because people have been told for years that searching was going to improve and quite frankly is has not. The Internet makes robust search tools paramount today. I'm not talking about Google but rather the ability to download insane amounts of data to your hard drive. 5 years ago broadband didn't have the penetration it does today. Places like Korea and Japan have insane broadband penetration and speeds( up to 20Mbps dl). Clearly the robustness of local search tools is important as hard drives store more data. Lacie just announced a 1.6 Terabyte Big Disk Extreme yes someone will fill this drive up and woe to he/she who has poor organizational skills. Spotlight and its metadata search methods coupled with google's popularity will change the way the average person retrieves information from their computer. This is much welcomed.
Longhorn- As a Mac fan I'm supposed to hate Microsoft even though their campus is literally 20 minutes from my front door. To be honest I have two homebuilt PCs and two older Macs. Windows XP is quite honestly not a bad OS. It's rather bland in many areas but it is far more stable than the junk we called Win98 and more flexible than Win 2000 (IMO of course. I run both). I have never been overly impressed with any Windows OS but that might change. Although they are only "concept" video I am impressed with the scope of Longhorn. Watching these Longhorn Videos was an eye opener. Microsoft's strategy seems to be clearer today than the first initial hype of .net. Their "4 Pillars" foundation of Longhorn seems to be well thought out and extensible as well as technically impressive in many areas (WinFS, Indigo). Where Apple has flexed its muscles in graphics in Tiger, Microsoft seems to be flexing their muscles within the context of business tools and workflow. Both OS seem to be moving away from a developer paradigm where every app was beholden mainly to itself, to a new model where apps share data and link seamlessly between each other guided by the OS framework. This ideology should really positively impact how consumers utilize the OS. While as a developer it should allow applications to focus more on their own respective specialties rather than duplicate core functionality that now reside in the OS.
Admittedly I'm just taking my first new "baby steps" in learning development and OS architecture. I'm sure I'll know far more in 2 years but for now I'm extremely positive about the direction of computing in general. Thanks for reading. HM