Microsoft and Apple, the two leading consumer desktop operating system makers, have shown us the future of their software. Here’s how they stack up.

Last October at an event on the Apple Cupertino campus called “Back to the Mac,” the world got its first peek at the stylish tech firm’s next desktop operating system, dubbed “OS X Lion.” CEO Steve Jobs explained that the success of the company’s iPad tablet was a major driver in adding features to Lion. More details were demonstrated at this year’s WWDC. And just last week at D9, the world got its first peek at what the company has code-named “Windows 8,” in a demo by Microsoft’s Windows President, Steve Sinofsky. That operating system, too, it turns out, was heavily influenced by a smaller-form-factor OS—Windows Phone 7.

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But the similarities don’t end at the two future desktop OS’s mobile influencers. Both Lion and Window 8 will make heavy use of touch interfaces, but with a big difference, as you’ll see in the slideshow below. Both will have an App Store, both have full screen app views, and both offer new ways to switch among and navigate within apps.

There are, of course, important differences between Microsoft and Apple’s overall OS strategies, as outlined by Peter Pachal in “Mac OS X Lion vs. Windows 8: Who Will Win the Post-PC World?” It all hinges on tablet support. Pachal points out that Apple is aligning its tablet and phone OSes, and keeping the desktop OS separate, though mobile-influenced. Microsoft, on the other hand, is creating one OS for tablets and desktops, while keeping the phone OS separate—for now, anyway. Microsoft may even have its ideas for a grand unified OS for all devices. Keep in mind that Lion, which is due for release next month, is much further along in the development process. Windows 8, on the other hand, isn’t coming out until next year, so we haven’t gotten as full a picture of the latter.

Clearly, the tablet and mobile worlds have begun to impact the desktop OS in a major way. This begs the question: Can the desktop survive? Once you see all the powerful goodies these new system software heavyweights bring to the table, however, you’d be hard pressed to make a case for the irrelevance of the desktop computer. Click through the slideshow to see whether you disagree, and to see which looks better to you: Windows 8 or Apple’s OS X Lion MCTS Training.

News Reporter