The age-old battle of Microsoft vs. Apple has subsisted since MS-DOS. And, while Windows buffs and Mac junkies are likely to never reach an agreement, it’s always fun to dive into the nitty gritty of each platform to see how they stack up.
It’s no coincidence that both Microsoft and Apple have opted to update their desktop operating systems (OS) around the same time. While Windows 10 attains new features regularly by way of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program, the anticipated successor to OS X El Capitan is out in the open via a public beta.
Both Windows and the newly renamed macOS are being treated to some massive overhauls as we speak, Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update and Apple’s desktop OS with macOS Sierra. And, although the two updates boast distinct feature sets, there are undoubtedly some similarities (and major differences) to be discussed.
Personal assistants: Siri vs. Cortana
It shouldn’t come as a shock that Siri is finally making its way to macOS, years after making its introduction back in 2011 on the iPhone 4S. What’s more surprising, frankly, is that the personal assistant hadn’t made its way to the Mac sooner.
Though it isn’t much more than a port of the iOS version with a few tweaks suiting it to a desktop interface, Siri is here in its definitive form – blessed we are to avoid the underdeveloped and underwhelming Apple TV treatment. For the first time ever, you can mark your calendar, send emails and navigate Finder using voice controls from your Mac.
Cortana, on the other hand, was Microsoft’s reaction to what Apple and Google had accomplished in mobile years prior with their own personal assistant AI. The resulting software is nothing short of exceptional. To thank, Cortana has the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which unifies devices running not only some variant of Windows 10 but, to an extent, even those bearing Android and iOS.
Cortana has, of course, undergone some refinements in the Anniversary Update. However, with Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to Windows as a Service, these enhancements were almost unwarranted given the procedural evolution of Cortana over time. Regardless, Windows 10 Anniversary delivers Cortana without compromise.
First of all, you’ll no longer be required to sign in to your computer first to start asking questions: Cortana is on your lockscreen. Moreover, the Halo-inspired helper gains interconnectivity with your other devices (at least those equipped with Android or Windows 10 Mobile) by responding to questions like, “How’s my battery life?” or, “Where is my phone?” To the latter, she’ll check your phone’s GPS location or even give it a ring.
As we’ve bragged in the past, Windows 10 comes out on top with its personal assistant functionality. Don’t get us wrong, Siri still packs a strong showing, but Cortana has an obvious lead here. Natural language responses, platform ubiquity and smart home integration are just a few of its quirks. And let us not forget Siri had a near-four year head start.
Platform unity: iCloud vs. Universal Windows Platform
On the other hand, Microsoft has failed to achieve the same level of success in unifying its ecosystem in the same way Apple has. While iCloud integration across all of its devices has enticed Apple users both new and old, Windows 10 Mobile hasn’t garnered enough market share to pull its own weight.
Nevertheless, Microsoft does have a few tricks up its sleeve, most notably with Project Centennial, which allows both Win32 and .NET developers to more seamlessly port their software to the Windows 10 Store, making it accessible on a wide range of UWP-enabled devices.
That said, Windows Ink is introduced with Windows 10’s summer upgrade, bringing with it a number of improvements specific to handcrafted note-taking and drawing. It appears to be a response to Apple’s iPad Pro, which was launched in November of last year and featured an expensive (yet effective) stylus add-on dubbed Apple Pencil.