Beacon Features: Mac and PC fight for your loyalty

By John Calloway
Contributing Writer

Mac or PC? It’s a question almost as old as time (or at least since the late 1970s and early 1980s when both Apple and Microsoft were founded). Does one pick the thin silver and black laptop with the fruit on it and a hefty price tag, or should the savvy consumer go with the platform that offers oh-so-many more brand options and has a price tag minute in comparison to the computer with the fruit logo?

At Palm Beach Atlantic University, this question is even more apparent as one sees students shuffling from class to class, lugging slick Dell laptops or clean white MacBooks.

The Macintosh operating system (OSX currently) offered by Apple Inc. is available on their machines by default (there are now programs to utilize the Intel chips in Mac to run Windows software simultaneously). Meanwhile, the Windows operating system (latest version is Vista) is available on a wide selection of brands and configurations ranging from the Dell desktop PCs we use everyday here at PBA to HP tablet PCs.

InsideHigherEd.com, a Web site dedicated to news and opinions at colleges, reported in January, “At Princeton University, 31 percent of students’ computers connected to the campus network in fall 2006 were Macs, compared with 10 percent in 2003 and 2004. At Dartmouth College, which has historically had strong Apple support, the numbers are even higher, with 55 percent of freshmen last semester reportedly using Macs.”

We could discuss the hardware side of things, but in general, let’s focus on the software itself. What makes it so special to people?

The following are the responses of three users interviewed, one being a sole Mac user, one a sole PC user and the final being one who uses both platforms. This is what they had to say.

Question: Did you switch from another platform before you use the one you use now? If so, why?
Mac: I switched from Windows about nine years ago because Mac has better operating system and I have never gotten viruses or had a crash.
PC: Yeah, just because I couldn’t afford a Mac. I mean if I had enough money to buy a Mac I would buy a Mac, but unfortunately….
Both: I’ve used both for a while, but I feel Mac is going to get bought by Windows in the end!

Q: Is price a factor?
Mac: No, not really. I have two Mac desktops and a Mac laptop.
PC: Oh yeah, for sure.
Both: No. Not really.

Q: What is the first thing that comes to mind as a benefit to your platform versus the other?
Mac: Hardware is built to match software; OS is just strong overall and is better for running programs compared to Windows. Macs last longer and hold their value.
PC: I would say that one of the benefits of PC would probably be that it makes you more aware of what a computer actually does. Because you know with the viruses and the amount of people using PCs makes you more entitled to learn and fix your own [computer] and to engage the community on the internet.

Q: So PC engages the user more than a Mac?
PC: I guess. I mean, Macs are good for design and the aesthetic look, but I just think it matters where the work on them originates. I’m not saying I don’t like them; I guess it just matters where your preference is.
Both: It depends on the nature of the person. Like for me, I would say PC would be better for computer science, but then again I have Mac because PC crashed too many times. They have a better warranty for Mac too.

Q: What is the first thing that comes to your mind as an area that could use improvement in your platform?
Mac: They could integrate actual Windows software better now that they have Intel chips so that you don’t need extra software to run programs on Mac from Windows.
PC: I think they need to make things more simplistic actually, because compared to Mac [where] everything just kind of works, people say PCs don’t work and I can agree with that because you actually have to know a little about computers to make them work the way you want them to. With Mac you really don’t have to do that because out of the box you just turn it on and you can do what ever you want. You don’t have to worry about viruses; you don’t have to worry about what is not working.
Both: I wouldn’t improve Mac. I would improve PC because we all are leaning in the direction of PC anyway. I would make it so all computers could run both operating systems, so you can buy one computer and log into both desktops and systems, but keep the price the same for system, not increase it.

Q: What do you look for in a computer (software or hardware based)? What is your take on style vs. practicality? Do you think gender plays a roll?
Mac: Performance speed processor speed. I do web design and motion graphics.
PC: Honestly, I am way more hardware based. I don’t look at style. Has to be Intel Dual Core. Ram. Over two [gigabytes]. You can’t do anything with less even if you are running a PC. It’s still going to be too slow. I’m a power user; I multitask very much on computers. And yes, definitely, gender plays a roll. You see more women with Macs. The women with PCs usually know a little more about computers from what I have observed.
Both: It depends on what is in the system. I go more for the hard drive, ram and memory. I wouldn’t go, “Oh this is a cute laptop. I’m going to buy it!” The hardware matters more, but software is important too of course. I don’t know though, for me Mac looked kind of nice for girls so I just bought one.

Q: Do you play into the cult-like status or fan base surrounding computers?
Mac: No, I use the computer I need for what I’m doing which is usually Mac. There are some programs, like video games that I use on Windows running on my Mac, but in general all the software I use runs better on the Mac even if it’s available for Windows.
PC: No, I don’t play into the fan base. I accept computers for what they are no matter what they look like, but the operating system is huge. I enjoy them for what they are, not what they are not doing. Because that’s the beauty of computers: you can make them do what you want.
Both: Some people don’t even know anything about computers and they say they love Mac and hate PC, but why? If they know why they hate [a platform] because of a reason, okay. Apple advertises their computers and Windows does not. That plays a role, too. In my country [Lebanon] they don’t even know about Mac. PC is more established all over the world.

Q: Does the fact that Apple has stores dedicated to their products and Windows is simply sold on other companies’ hardware have any impact on you as a user?
Mac: Yes because it shows that they stand by their product and don’t feel they have to associate with “lower companies” to sell their products. The store environment is beautiful too; this attracts people.
PC: I suppose yes, because with the Apple stores there is someone to actually look at your computer right then and there. PC [repair] is way more of a paper process. That’s why there are people who hate PCs – haters for a lack of a better word. Mac seems to make it simplistic. You really have to want to use a PC. It depends on your preference.
Both: It’s more compatible to do that, but you have to register products there and they restrict you. No, I don’t like that.

There are many more platforms running on computers than just Mac OSX and Windows Vista. An operating system known as Linux has a huge following due to its open source (basically meaning it is free and can be edited by the user) nature.

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