The prevailing wisdom about Linux on the desktop runs something like this: "I'll believe Linux is ready for the desktop as soon as you can give me a Linux distribution that even my grandmother can run."
In this feature, I'm going to compare the newly-released Ubuntu 7.04 (codenamed "Feisty Fawn") with Microsoft Windows Vista in a number of categories. To keep the playing field as level as possible, I'm looking wherever I can at applications -- not just in the sense of "programs," but in the sense of what the average user is going to do with the OS in a workday. Sometimes the differences between the two OSes are profound, but sometimes the playing field levels itself -- OpenOffice.org, for instance, is installed by default in Ubuntu, but adding it to Vista isn't terribly difficult.
Also, while I was tempted to compare Vista's Aero interface to the Beryl window manager (which has a similar palette of visual effects), I decided that pretty graphics, while nice, had more to do with personal preference than efficiency. In addition, Beryl isn't installed by default in Ubuntu, and Aero isn't available on all PCs.
In each case, I've tried to look at practical benefits rather than theoretical ones -- what works, what doesn't, and what you have to do to get certain things done. I should also note that, despite being a big fan of Vista, I've tried to keep my enthusiasm for it from overriding my judgment. Everyone needs something different, and not everyone needs (or wants) Vista -- or Ubuntu -- so I've done my best to keep my mind, and my eyes, wide open.