While digging through some of John Gruber’s old articles today I came across this one which puts many of what I see as the most distinguishable and sometimes most frustrating differences between the Mac and Windows platforms into words. In it he diverges away from the title of the post and discusses the difference between an operating system being built upon a “windows-centric paradigm” (e.g. Windows) and one that is built around a “application-centric paradigm” (e.g. Mac). Money quote:
So the Mac paradigm enforces a three-level hierarchy: you’ve got the system, which runs applications, which display windows. The Windows paradigm tries to eliminate the middleman, presenting a system, which displays windows — i.e. the idea is not that your windows belong to applications, but that they belong to the Windows system itself. The problem with this is that it’s an illusion, in that Windows is still very much an application-centric system. It just doesn’t look like it. When it comes right down to it, Windows is almost every bit as application-centric as the Mac, but the Windows human interface attempts to disguise this, ostensibly to make things simpler.
Overall, the article is a great read and does a brilliant job of moving the Mac vs. Windows debate past the common “eye candy”, etc. themes.