Paul Thurrott runs a site that discusses Windows UI (esp. XP and Longhorn):
“Now, because I present this information, I’m somehow labeled a Microsoft lover and/or an Apple basher. That’s silly. But Apple has done very little to make its UI better per se, beyond simple enhancements to what is, again, a classic desktop OS. There’s nothing wrong with that. Frankly, Apple’s crowd is technical enough to deal with it. But saying that such an OS is “easier to use” or “more elegant” than Windows is wrong. Mac OS X is attractive, and arguably “better looking” than Windows XP, though that’s a subjective declaration. But it is most certainly not “easier to use”. And that’s not “Apple bashing,” it’s just the way it is.”
I agree that Apple just brought a standard user interface to UNIX. But it is the first actually quite usable consumer grade user interface in the UNIX world ever. And this is something that some people believed would be impossible to do.
My personal experience about the activity centered approach of Windows XP is that it does disconnect the user from the computer by layering a webpage-like interface over the enourmous amount of control panels – adding more complexity instead of reducing it. It fails to create mental models that work and it prohibits the user to work with the computer creatively.
There is some merit in having more powerful control panels (which show you all mobile devices in one place for instance), but if that does not lead to less dialogs there is no real gain – it just looks more user friendly. There is no doubt that Longhorn will be more user friendly in that sense, but to claim MacOS X is “just attractive” is too simple.
OS X has to be compared to UNIX GUIs some years ago. The Aqua interface made UNIX accessible to consumers. The core OS is open source, many UNIX geeks love OS X because it allows them to work with their old stuff in new ways. That is something Microsoft fails to do.
A much better resource than Paul Thurrott’s site can be found on the X vs. XP site