When trying to discern the differences between the many computing system choices out there, it becomes clear very quickly that this is no easy task. For one thing, there are questions of what sort of form factor makes sense (i.e., netbook vs. laptop vs. desktop), what sort of power you need, and what it is that you’re going to be doing with your machine. Additionally, it can be maddening trying to distinguish the operating system from the many add-ons available and that come prepackaged with a machine bought at retail.
So I’ve decided that the best way for me to get a grip on everything, I will start with a comparison of what you would get if you obtained only the operating system. In other words, what would you get if you went to a store and purchased, say Windows Vista Home Premium, or OS X, or downloaded a Linux distro. What, in other words, is built in if you had only that installed on your machine and nothing else. It isn’t necessarily the most logical place to start. After all, if you don’t have Apple hardware, you can’t install OSX legally. And it is unclear to me that many people buy Vista at retail. (And to top it all off, Vista is a dead brand, soon to supplanted by Windows 7 and all of its many flavors.)
The reason I’m starting here, however, is because I want to get at the heart of what you get with the operating system, and what the value of the software is from that approach.
I think it’s important to look at what you get from the following categories: internet capability (i.e., built-in browser(s)); general productivity applications (i.e., word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, non-web-based email, et cetera); data backup; entertainment (i.e., media playback and games); photo management (i.e., ability to display, manage, and edit digital photos); and content creation (i.e., ability to create music and/or movies). Additionally, I have looked at miscellaneous goodies that are built-in, that aren’t necessarily things that are deal-breakers, but nonetheless may factor into a decision.