How not to write an operating system review: Paul Thurrott shows you

Hmm, so Paul Thurrott has somehow or other got his hands on a computer running Tiger, and even done an install. The review is over at http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/macosx_tiger.asp (I’m not going to hyperlink it, because it just feels scuzzy to do so).

OK, a few points about what’s written there. First, factual errors: Tiger is a minor software release, and it’s late: Originally expected in late 2004, Apple last year explained that it was slowing the development time of its operating systems.

No: that’s untrue. Avie Tevinian (Apple’s chief software guy) mentioned in a round-table interview in September 2003, when Panther hadn’t been released, that Apple was going to slow down its OS releases. The same theme was reiterated by Apple people who were demoing the then-new Panther (10.3) around its release in October 2003. Apple never committed to releasing 10.4 in late 2004. Perhaps some people thought that because it had produced 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3 in that timeframe that 10.4 should, but that’s not the same as making a public comment.

Secondly, and really demonstrating that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, this is a review on a Windows site. OK, fair enough. So you would expect that it would give good context – showing how this feature compares to that feature in Windows. Is the help system better than Windows now? (It certainly wasn’t, in terms of speed, in 10.3; though in terms of comprehensibility, Apple’s help stuff is light years ahead. If you’ve ever tried to understand a Windows “help” panel, you’ll know what I mean.) How about finding files? Or connecting hardware? Or just about anything? How does it compare to Windows XP SP2, which is what it’s now up against?

Is Spotlight better than the freebie things for Windows like Google Desktop Search? Is Dashboard and its widgets better than Konfabulator on Windows? We’ll not know, even though this is meant to be a review on a Windows site, where one presumes there will be Windows users browsing by. Hell, it’s got a top billing on the front page: you’d think it would be more incisive than noting, re Spotlight, that Microsoft is working on similar, if further-reaching, technology for Longhorn.

Well, colour me just a reader, but what“further-reaching technology”? Is it WinFS? That’s the search function that’s been trimmed off Longhorn, surely, to be made available separately. So what’s this mysterious “technology” that Microsoft is doing for Longhorn?

And just to show how crap this “review” is, it doesn’t even answer the most basic question that anyone will ask: is it faster? Well, is it? This post (on, apparently, a developer’s blog) suggests it is: +50% CPU, +25% UI.

As for his stuff about the price – $129 in the US, £89 in the UK – he says Tiger is a solid release. It’s just not a major upgrade that’s worth the $129 price tag. Surely if Apple can violate its “every other release is free” policy, it could charge $50 or less for Tiger. Oh, right, and what’s this “every other release is free” policy? Could you point me to the web page? No, because it doesn’t exist. (Update: Despite the comment below, this wrong claim is still in there. Who knows what was “updated” on the page. It wasn’t this error.)

This is the sort of hack journalism I really hate, because it’s so lazy. More than that, it’s premature and completely lacks context. Developers I’ve talked to are *very* excited about the possibilities that Spotlight (the search facility) and Dashboard offer.

The expectation, they say, is that Dashboard will excite people initially, because the widgets are fun and easy to do. They’ll be the ones that proliferate. But it’s Spotlight that will be the powerful thing, because it’s so deep underneath, and can link in to so much. Knowledge is power, they tell me, and search like this finds where the knowledge resides.

But when you’ve got someone so blinkered that all you want to do is crank out a “review” to get a little mileage for your Windows site by getting Apple fans to visit it, what do you expect?

Do yourselves a favour. Just don’t go there. Wait for something better.

Update: for an encapsulated not-quite-review, you can do a lot worse than read this ExtraBITS piece (from the TidBITS team) which gives you a helicopter view of Tiger, yet also the feel of what’s happening. Oh, and doesn’t contain any factual errors I could see.

15 Comments

  1. Heh! Yeah, bit unfair even to infer that Tiger’s late. The only promise of its arrival before the April 29th announcement was “first half of 2005”, so I’d say it’s 2 months early.

    But yes, I’ve seen a couple of comments on tuaw.com about how Spotlight gives developers pretty exciting hooks into everything within files on a machine. I guess in theory that could have scary security ramifications, but I’m looking forward to seeing what cool apps developers create using that stuff.

  2. Excuse me, but you are like a touchy girl.
    Anyway.. WinFS is not the search feature for Longhorn, it’s a kind of database-driven file system on top of NTFS mainly for servers.
    The search feature is in beta, it’s called MSN Toolbar Suite or MSN Desktop Search, beta is available, final version will be released soon.
    And the Longhorn search feature will be the same as MSN Toolbar Suite but also will be more integrated (like Spotlight).

  3. In reply to Kay, the assertion from Thurrott is that Longhorn has some technology beyond those tools, and beyond Spotlight. Basically he’s responding to a powerful feature today with an unsubstantiated promise of a feature.

  4. “This is the sort of hack journalism I really hate, because itís so lazy. More than that, itís premature and completely lacks context.”

    Spot on, and I couldn’t agree more.
    Just one thing, Paul must have been running 8A425 because that’s the latest build seeded to developers. It isn’t the Golden Master – so yes the “review” is very premature.

    Matt

  5. It’s not likely that Thurrott would be evenhanded and risk the wrath of his support. One major feature was omitted entirely, namely Automator. It’s this feature that is the most valuable to business processes. The corporate developers and managers I saw witnessing a demo at Macworld were blown away by it’s power and simplicity. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. Thurrott left this out as he would have had to do a lot more research to cover it’s depth of features and usefullness to so many department operations.

  6. He edited out that “every other release is free” garbage. I have no idea how he came up with that one. Maybe some Mac user he knows let him copy 10.0 and 10.2 and thats why he thinks they were free. By now, though, the whole Mac community pretty much knows that this guy either has a serious problem with reality or likes to cater to the prejudices of his main audience. It is “SuperSite For Windows”, after all.

    Maybe he does this on purpose to get a rise out of us. Some people in this world would prefer to be hated rather than ignored.

  7. So, Kay, in what way like a touchy girl, then? Sorry, I don’t know enough of them. I’m bugged by how crap a review this is; had it come out at the same time as all the other reviews surely will (when Tiger comes out) then its amazing lack of insight would have been obvious. Presently, though, it’s one of very few.

    Anyway, WinFS: the page at http://msdn.microsoft.com/data/default.aspx?pull=/msdnmag/issues/04/01/WinFS/default.aspx makes it sound like exactly the same thing as Spotlight, but with more complicated language (it is the developer page, but it’s still written in Random compared to the Apple developer page for Spotlight at http://developer.apple.com/macosx/tiger/spotlight.html : compare the two and see which one you comprehend).

    Amazingly, Microsoft *still* hasn’t updated the WinFS page at http://msdn.microsoft.com/data/winfs/ except to say that, ah, it isn’t going to be in Longhorn. Kay, you must point us to the info you have about NTFS and this Toolbar Suite stuff. Because I think you’re flat-out wrong about WinFS.

  8. “How not to write a review”??

    Seems to me this review is written exactly how Thurrott wanted to write it.
    It’s black PR written by experts.

  9. Actually, it’s not all negative about Tiger. It’s sort of damning with faint praise – in one paragraph calling it very worthwhile, “score one for Apple”, and in the next complaining because it costs more than a random piece of shareware. It’s inconsistent, but as I said, my main complaint is that it doesn’t answer the questions that the readers *of the site where it appears* would be asking.

    Not knowing your readers is a cardinal sin among journalists. It gets you fired. Except, depressingly, I suppose his incompetence here simply attracts more people to the car crash. Hmm, perhaps a lesson to be learnt: on the web, being crap can get you as much, or more, attention than being good.

  10. “on the web, being crap can get you as much, or more, attention than being good. ”

    There is always good and evil in the world.
    Evil is always stronger.
    That’s reality.
    -Zato

  11. I think Thurrott is referring to a policy that C-Net said that Apple’s Senior VP Phil Schiller described as thus…

    Apple has charged full prices for upgrades before, such as when the company moved from Mac OS 9 to OS X. Schiller added that Apple has consistently tried to offer one minor free upgrade (not including shipping and handling when applicable)every six months and one major paid-for upgrade every year.

    That said, Apple hasn’t had a biannual upgrade cycle in quite some time…

  12. Who cares what Thurrot says? It really isn’t even worth commenting on.

    Everyone knows (even PC users) that he is owned by Microsoft!

  13. Hey…is right on a few items and I dare say he’s a lot more generous to Tiger than I think a lot of these fanatic web sites will be to Longhorn! In other words get over it and move on.

  14. One wonders why PT even bothers to review Tiger on his Windows site – Windows apologists must be scratching their heads … Thankyou for not linking to him in the way other sites have – as links mean hits – which imply credibility, and PT clearly has none.

  15. Some of you may be interested to know that Amazon UK is now selling Tiger on pre-order basis. Single license is about £14 less (£74.99) and Family Pack is about £21 less (£117.99). Free delivery available too. Not sure about when they ACTUALLY will deliver it, but if you don’t need it EXACTLY on the day, not a bad saving.

    Ian
    (ps no affiliation with Amazon!)

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