One of the weird things about the Mac-PC rivalry is that "Mac" and "PCs" aren't necessarily two items that can be seen in direct opposition within the same category. The first big Mac advocate in my life -- a friend's mother and IT pioneer -- swooned over the two Steves but always admonished me that a Mac was as much of a personal computer as anything IBM put out. And in fact the PC makers that are in the same basic personal computer market with Apple nevertheless have a completely different business model, since their hardware runs an OS -- the thing that in the end the users really spend most of their time interacting with -- made by someone else.
But what do you do when that OS is becoming widely hated, as Vista is? Well, a fascinating article in BusinessWeek offers a peek behind the scenes at HP, where this problem is causing a bit of panic. Apparently they're throwing together a "customer experience group" that will try to make Vista better (but how?)
or maybe even create a customized Linux distro (without annoying Redmond?). And of course Apple, the only PC maker not selling Vista boxes, is a big driver behind this, as their OS is widely regarded as not being terrible, and yet this is not a problem that HP can really fix.
I have no illusions that Apple's OS will always be better than Microsoft's, having lived through the dark days of the late '90s; but at least when Apple is falling behind in the OS race, it can do something about it. The other PC makers are just stuck.