Usability: Searching The Mac OS X Spotlight offers a powerful way to launch both applications and data files by typing a search string, then choosing the desired file from the results list. While Windows Vista has a search function as part of the Start menu, it's not as powerful as the Mac OS X Spotlight. In Windows 7, the search feature gets major upgrades, becoming a genuine rival for the Mac OS X Spotlight.
If you open the Start menu and begin typing, Windows 7 will bring up a list of programs, control panel items, documents, and media files whose titles contain the string you're typing. This is very similar to the approach Spotlight takes, and it's powerful enough to be faster than scrolling through the application menus if you have more than a very basic set of applications on your system.
What we're really seeing is that both Windows and the Mac OS are converging toward a common model, in which most applications (and the most common data files) will be accessed through icons on the dock or the menu bar, while less-common apps and data are accessed through rapid search results. The traditional Start menu and application folder are obviously being replaced by more efficient ways of launching applications.
Verdict: Both companies have reached similar conclusions about the best ways of navigating applications as well as files, so there's no clear advantage for one over the other. Draw.
Performance: An extra inch Microsoft promised to make Windows 7 faster and leaner than Vista, and InfoWorld lab tests show slight improvements on both counts. OfficeBench, which measures the time required to complete a variety of Microsoft Office tasks, puts Windows 7 at roughly 4 percent faster than Vista (and 15 percent slower than XP). InfoWorld's OfficeBench tests also show that Windows 7 uses about 8 percent less RAM than Vista when running an identical workload. PC World WorldBench tests likewise indicate "incremental" speed improvements.
Whether Snow Leopard is faster than Leopard seems to depend both on the task and on the machine. In Macworld tests, the biggest consistent speed improvements were in system shutdowns and initial Time Machine backups. Snow Leopard was no faster than Leopard at starting up or running a Photoshop script, and it was slower at duplicating a 1GB file in the Finder and at waking from sleep. Results for other tasks were inconsistent across an iMac, a MacBook Pro, and a Mac Pro.