We are at an interesting crossroads in the computer industry (IMHO) . Apple is about to unleash Tiger (ETA: one week from now), and this operating system release could end up being the crucial round of the titanic battle between Apple and Microsoft. The battle which starts at the Operating System level reminds me of the "Rumble In The Jungle" (circa. 1974, Kinshasa, Zaire); Apple in the role of Ali (aka "The Greatest" who was the overwhelming underdog at time) and Microsoft in the role of George Foreman (who at the time was logically invincible).

The shakesperian tale of Macbeth also comes to mind as depicted in the excerpt below:

".... Macbeth goes to visit the witches in their cavern. There, they show him a sequence of demons and spirits who present him with further prophecies: he must beware of Macduff, a Scottish nobleman who opposed Macbeth's accession to the throne; he is incapable of being harmed by any man born of woman; and he will be safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. "

Having used all the major operating systems on a serious basis for a number of years in a variety of modes; user, developer, and administrator. I have always felt that a RISC based UNIX operating system (of BSD genealogical branch extraction), if somehow combined with a user interface that is superior to Windows, would ultimately unravel the Windows Desktop Monopoly. That operating system exists today in the form of Mac OS X (its lastest Tiger release simply kicks the differential up a notch).

Back to the Macbeth correlation:

"Birnam Woods coming to Dunsinane" is the metaphoric equivalent of desktop users and first time computer users being forced (by the scourge of virus and spyware) to revaluate Windows as the only choice for productive desktop computing. What would you recommend to "Aunt Milly" when she tells you she wants to get on the Internet? Especially if "Aunt Milly" isn't living with you?

"Man not born of a woman" is no different to saying: UNIX with a superior user interface to Windows!

I don't think you need me to tell who play the characters of Macbeth and Macduff in this drama :-)

The Windows security vulnerabilities quagmire (google juice on this phrase is currently 6,620 pages) has basically created an inflection of monumental proportions adversely affecting Windows and creating great visibility and evaluation building opportunities for Mac OS X ("once users experience a Mac they don't come back to Windows!").

Paul Murphy of cio-today.com has also written a great article sheds light on the often overlooked hardware aspect to the security problem for Windows Here is a poignant excerpt:

Software and Hardware Vulnerabilities

At present, attacks on Microsoft's Windows products are generally drawn from a different population of possible attacks than those on Unix variants such as BSD, Linux and Solaris. From a practical perspective, the key difference is that attacks on Wintel tend to have two parts: A software vulnerability is exploited to give a remote attacker access to the x86 hardware and that access is then used to gain control of the machine.

In contrast, attacks on Unix generally require some form of initial legal access to the machine and focus on finding software ways to upgrade priveleges illegally.

Consider, for example, CAN-2004-1134 in the NIST vulnerabilities database:

Summary: Buffer overflow in the Microsoft W3Who ISAPI (w3who.dll) allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service and possibly execute arbitrary code via a long query string.

Published Before: 1/10/2005

Severity: High

The vulnerability exists in Microsoft's code, but the exploit depends on the rigid stack-order execution and limited page protection inherent in the x86 architecture. If Windows ran on Risc, that vulnerability would still exist, but it would be a non-issue because the exploit opportunity would be more theoretical than practical.

Linux and open-source applications are thought to have far fewer software vulnerabilities than Microsoft's products, but Linux on Intel (Nasdaq: INTC - news) is susceptible to the same kind of attacks as those now predominantly affecting Wintel users. For real long-term security improvements, therefore, the right answer is to look at Linux, or any other Unix, on non x86 hardware.

One such option is provided by Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL - news) BSD-based products on the PowerPC-derived G4 and G5 CPUs. Linus Torvalds, for example, apparently now runs Linux on a Mac G5 and there are several Linux distributions for this hardware -- all of which are immune to the typical x86-oriented exploit.

This may even been the nullifier of that age old argument about porting Mac OS X to the x86 in order to broaden its adoption potential?

Mac OS X is certainly a breath of fresh air for anyone who needs to simply get stuff done with their desktops and notebooks.