Answer to PC vs. Mac depends on needs

Editors note: This is one of several columns that I wrote for the Columbia Missourian. They were originally called Your Digital World

If you’ve decided to take the new computer plunge this holiday season, whether for yourself or others, you must ask yourself one question.

Macintosh or PC?

It’s the great debate, bigger than the cola wars, and the fuel for many a fight in techdom.

But I have unraveled the mystery, researched many hours, tested several platforms and come to one undeniable answer.

The answer is … it depends.

Wait, before you call the Missourian demanding your 50 cents back, there really isn’t a hard and fast way to decide which is better, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

PC — It’s a big world out there and a lot of people are using computers, most are using PCs. That’s the platform’s biggest advantage, it holds the majority of the market share. So when you’re going to look for software, there’s a very good chance there’ll be a PC version. This is especially true for games; most are released for PC, and then if popular enough, ported to Mac.

Along with PCs comes Microsoft. Unless you’re determined to run Linux on your machine, you’re probably going to run some flavor of Windows. For some people, putting up with Microsoft’s shenanigans isn’t worth it. For example, many people aren’t upgrading to Windows XP, the latest version, because it requires you to register with Microsoft or it shuts down after a certain period of time.

The PCs ubiquity can also be a drawback. There are hundreds of PC vendors with many different makes and models, many different processors and a lot of options. If buying a new computer seems daunting enough, let alone trying to tell a salesperson whether you want the Pentium 3, Pentium 4, or Celeron processor, then you might consider Apple.

Macintoshes — It started the computer revolution and created advertising history. But today Apple holds less than 10 percent of the computer market, meaning that if you buy a Mac, chances are your friend doesn’t. Unless you’re a graphic designer. Macs are still considered a standard in that industry. All design software comes in a Mac version, and so does most productivity software.

With the advent of Mac OS X, which is based on a Unix core, there’s a good chance a lot of good Unix and Linux software will be ported to the Mac.

Macs, I still believe, are a bit easier to use, so they may be the choice for a computer novice’s first digital foray. They also don’t come in many configurations, but a lot of colors. Apple has set its strategy on two types of users and their two types of machines: professional and home users on desktop and portable machines. You want a professional desktop, G4 tower, home desktop, iMac – portable: the Titanium Powerbook and the iBook are the choices.

Cost is also an issue, for a similarly configured PC, you’re usually going to pay more for the Mac. For example, my fiancée and I recently bought an iBook, but could have gotten a comparable PC laptop for a little more than half the cost of the Mac.

What to do — Why’d I pay that much for a notebook? Because my fiancée and I are both graphic designers, and she works in an office that uses Macs, so it made sense to buy a Mac.

Similarly, if you’re considering buying a new computer, you’ll want to decide if you’re going to need to bring work home from the office, or if you’ve got kids that need to bring work back from school — think about getting the platform there.

If you’re a graphic designer, consider a Mac, gamer, a PC. It really depends on how much you want to spend and what you want to do with it.

If you’ve thought about all this, and still can’t decide, e-mail me at yourdigiworld@yahoo.com. I’m here to help.

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
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2 Responses to Answer to PC vs. Mac depends on needs

  1. Willem Sijpheer says:

    We are looking at the iBook for our journalism program. At the moment we use PC. I hear that in the future the PC and Mac will be compatable. Do you think changing over to Ibooks might be a good thing? We are using PC laptops and Mac desktops.

  2. Chris Heisel says:

    I’d highly recommend a switch to the iBook. I use one now (along with a Mac Desktop at work).

    They’re easy to use and administer, they’ll save you money in the long run because they last longer, and need less suppport.

    In fact, the University of Missouri Journalism School (my alma mater), is switching to an all-Mac environment, and at my job at the Atlanta Journal Consitution the newsroom is all-Mac…

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