As a frequent user of two of the major computing platforms of the current day - Microsoft's Windows XP and Apple's OS X (10.5) - I feel I can speak with some authority on the differences between the two. Unlike some on either side of the fence who throw out their strong opinions without any actual experience using one of these operating systems, I can say I spend a good deal of my time on both.
And although I have a preference for one of these platforms over the other, I'll do my best to be impartial here. Rather, I will rely on experience and the amount of pleasure I derive from using each.
It's the People
For me, the biggest difference between the two is the community. It could be said that since Windows is the dominant platform in the industry, there is no community. Or rather, the community is so large and diversified that it is actually comprised of smaller, specialized communities. And perhaps I have not stumbled upon the good ones that are out there.
However, the Mac community flourishes. Especially in this decade as Apple has methodically returned to prominence. Apple has always had a passionate, dedicated core of users, but that core seems to being growing in recent times.
This community consists of different professional groups - bloggers, designers, educators and most importantly to me, software developers. This last group is where I personally see the big difference between the two platforms.
The enjoyment I get from when my Mac is in part due to the operating system - the ease of use, the intuitiveness and the look of OS X all add to the experience. But my enjoyment is enhanced greatly by the third party software that I use every day. At any time, one look at my dock shows that applications created by Apple are always outnumbered by those I have purchased from the Mac developer community. Applications such as NetNewsWire, Coda, Yojimbo and Things make the hours fly by.
Furthermore, if an application can not only solve a problem, but help the user enjoy the process, it succeeds even more.
I think Shawn nails it here - OS X can be described in this way, and the majority of the Mac developer community strives to ensure their applications extend that experience.
And there is an abundance of this type of software for OS X. This list I gave above is only a small representation of what is available to the end user.
I work in IT in the healthcare industry and our organization is currently Windows only. If it were my preference, I would use OS X all day. But that choice is not yet mine and I must make the best of the situation.
So I use Windows and most days I can perform my job functions somewhat painlessly. But you know what - the pleasure, the enjoyment - it's just not there. I don't look forward to using my computer like I do at home.
And I know part of the problem is the lack of the 'little applications'. All the one-purpose, $30 apps that I have on my Mac - I have not been able to find the equivalents for Windows. Monolithic, brooding, all-in-one applications? Yep, they're here and they're entrenched in corporate America (and they'll take your lunch money too). But the fun applications are not to be found.
My problem started with GTD. I have spent the past year tweaking my system implementing GTD at work and at home. After trying out multiple setups for both, I can say I am very happy with my system at home. At work, not so much. I just cannot find a GTD based application for Windows that can match the ease-of-use and elegance of the options available for OS X.
Where art thou, Things for Windows? Omnifocus? Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. Maybe Google is hiding things from me. If there is someone out there who can point me in the right direction, please drop me a line.
But I can say this - the Mac indie software community is alive and growing. From what I have seen, not so for Windows.