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'Tiger' a shot across the bow of Microsoft
Scripps Howard News Service


May 04, 2005

The release of Apple's OS X "Tiger" operating system upgrade didn't make much of a blip outside of the Apple world. Granted, the Apple market share still hovers only around 5 percent, so a new operating system may not be front-page news.

But Tiger ought to be considered a shot across the bow of Microsoft, which still won't release an upgrade to Windows XP for another 18 months. Considering the older Mac OS X operating system was already better than Windows, this new version should do two things; attract more people to the Apple platform and/or encourage Microsoft to add more features to the next version of Windows, called "Longhorn."

What is so much better about Tiger? For one thing, it's more secure. Nothing can be installed in Tiger without the user typing in the administrator password. It would seemingly be a good change to make in the current version of Windows, maybe via a patch, but few users today even have an administrative password.

How many times have you "lost" something on today's cavernous hard drives? One of the coolest features of Tiger is a built-in desktop search. Called "Spotlight," the program is the first integrated search application that does a great job of indexing a hard drive and everything on it ... every e-mail, every word of every document, every Excel sheet.

It works much better than any add-on product because it is built into the operating system and part of the indexing system.

Another new feature, Dashboard, puts the most-used features right on the desktop. And, most importantly, Apple has trumped Microsoft again by building parental controls right into the operating system, which help control what your kids can do with your home PC.

A feature called Smart Folders is amazingly slick. You can consider them saved searches. If you set up a search about a topic, then any document or photo that you later create or receive on that topic will be added to that folder.

Windows is planning a similar thing. We shall see who does it better. But with an 18-month head-start, I will bet on Apple.

Apple's Web browser, Safari, already was pretty slick. The new version adds a "private browsing" option that does not save traces of where you have browsed on the Internet. As the World Wide Web turns into the Wild West, that becomes very important.

If you're into video conferencing, the new Tiger includes that, too.

You can add Tiger to a current Apple PC for $129; if you live near an Apple store, it will even help you install it and learn how to use it. (Do you think Microsoft could learn a few things about customer service?)

If you order or buy a new Apple in the next few months, make sure the PC comes with Tiger in case the retailer has older stock. (If you order direct from Apple, you'll get Tiger.)

Anyway, this upgrade really raises the bar, again, for Microsoft, which continues to ride the wave of a 90 percent market share. We shall see in 18 months if Windows can compete.


WEEKLY WEB WONDER: If you're a cheap nerd like me and watch every penny on the price of your components, check out PriceWatch before you buy ( It monitors the prices of thousands of key electronic components.


James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer-repair company, and a computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim(at)

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