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Thursday, October 08, 2009, 08:05 am PT (11:05 am ET)

Mossberg: Windows 7 narrows the gap with Apple's Mac OS X

Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal has given Microsoft's Windows 7 a glowing review, noting that Microsoft's latest operating system is still behind Apple's Mac OS X, but not by much.

A known Apple advocate, Mossberg's positive take on Windows 7 is a big change from Windows XP and Vista, both of which the columnist felt were vastly inferior to Mac OS X.

"In recent years, I, like many other reviewers, have argued that Apple’s Mac OS X operating system is much better than Windows," he said. "That’s no longer true. I still give the Mac OS a slight edge because it has a much easier and cheaper upgrade path; more built-in software programs; and far less vulnerability to viruses and other malicious software, which are overwhelmingly built to run on Windows."

He continued: "Now, however, it’s much more of a toss-up between the two rivals. Windows 7 beats the Mac OS in some areas, such as better previews and navigation right from the taskbar, easier organization of open windows on the desktop and touch-screen capabilities. So Apple will have to scramble now that the gift of a flawed Vista has been replaced with a reliable, elegant version of Windows."

Windows 7 is set to debut on Oct. 22. A Home Premium upgrade will cost $120 ($200 standalone); Professional upgrade will cost $200 ($300 standalone); and Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade will run $220 ($320 standalone).

It's launch follows the debut of Apple's latest operating system, which was released at the end of August. Mossberg said both offerings from the rival companies are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

In his August review of Snow Leopard, Apple's latest operating system upgrade, Mossberg said the upgrade is a decent improvement, but not a "must-have upgrade." He said the $29 product is priced accordingly, because Mac OS X 10.6 is not a "typical Apple lust-provoking product."

In the Windows 7 review, Mossberg drew many parallels between Windows 7 and Snow Leopard. He said the new taskbar is similar to the Mac OS X dock, but improves on the concept in some ways — namely Aero Peek, which he said is "more natural and versatile" than Snow Leopard's Dock Expose. The Aero Peek feature allows users to mouse over an open window in the preview screen, which makes all other windows on the desktop transparent.

He also praised the new OS for being faster than Windows Vista, nagging users for security concerns less than its predecessor, and offering a wide range of software compatibility.

But there are a few key areas where Windows 7 falls behind Snow Leopard, Mossberg said. For one, Microsoft's OS "still isn't quite as natural" as it is on Mac, though it's an improvement from Vista.

And though Windows 7 is faster, his MacBook Pro still started and restarted faster than most of the PCs he tested. "But the speed gap has narrowed considerably," he said.