The Eternal Debate: PC vs. Mac

I think most of you know that I am now a bona-fide Mac user, and in general this statement alone causes one of three reactions:

  1. You make the “Oh, God, it’s one of those snobby Mac lovers that is going to lecture me for ten minutes on why my computer sucks” face.
  2. You pump a fist in the air, in that geeky sort of no-arm-strength way, and reaffirm that we both rule (or in extreme cases you might kiss my mac).
  3. You stare at me as if I just talked about which paint I like to watch dry, and you go back to texting on your cell phone.

This debate has raged for years and years, never dying in its intensity.  In recent times, the edge of this war has become blurred by the unparalleled success of Apple’s iPod, which has created additional crossover success for Apple’s computer lineup.  But the war continues unabated.

The amusing thing, however, is that many users can’t give a definite reason why one is better than the other.  I have people ask me about this all the time, and I’ve slowly tried to work my way to a much better depiction of the two universes (since I have both types).  I’m also one of the rare people that say both Mac and PC are equally viable:  there are groups of people for which each is truly better.

So if you’re thinking of crossing over, but are filled with uncertainty in an uncertain world, here are what I think are the most important points to consider:

  • PC’s are less expensive.  A lot less expensive. Anytime you hear a Mac person bragging that a Mac is better, know that he or she probably paid twice as much for it, provided that they have a full power desktop or laptop.  This really sets the two apart and does not make it a fair comparison.  The only exception is the Mac mini, which is a small, efficient Mac that does not come with a monitor, mouse, or keyboard.
  • Macs are without question easier to use, and far easier to solve problems on. Everyone has those computer problems that make you want to pull all of your hair out and sob like a child at a horror movie.  Drivers, significant virus concerns, hardware compatibility, blue screens of death, and complicated installations…all of these almost never happen on a Mac.  When you install a program, for instance, you drag the program from the disc folder to your Applications folder.  Almost everything else is plug-and-play.  It’s really that simple, and it’s a huge headache relief.
  • There is more software available for PC’s, but unless you’re a power user/gamer this gap is far less than you think. In recent years many major companies have all developed applications for both Mac and PC, including Microsoft Office, all Adobe software, and all web browsers.  Casual users have almost no problems getting the software they’re looking for.  The most significant advantage for PC’s still lies in the realm of  games, some power applications, and work-specific platforms (anything your company has built to let you work from home, for example).
  • Macs have significantly more appeal, including the cool factor. If you’ve ever seen one, it’s hard to deny that this is true.  Apple has developed a fair number of applications, in addition to the computers themselves, that become eye openers at parties, or just flat out fun to show off.  This particularly applies to playing music, generating screen savers and videos, and creating slide shows of photographs.  It’s rather like comparing an iPod and a Microsoft Zune in the MP3 player market.
  • Macs own the market on compatibility between computers. Because Apple is the only company that creates both its computers and their operating systems, it can take a lot of liberties in terms of how these computers can talk to each other.  As an astonishing example, I bought a new Mac last year, and I allocated an entire Saturday to transfer over all of my software, settings, files, etc.  When I plugged in the new computer, it simply asked me if I wanted to copy all of these things over from an old computer.  So I connected the two…and 45 minutes later my new computer looked exactly like my old one.  Unfortunately PC’s can’t do this because there are countless PC makers.
  • For applications that exist on both systems, I simply don’t adhere to the arguments that one is simply better than the other. I’ve used a number of applications on both systems for some time now, and I personally believe that there is no real difference.  The true benefits lie elsewhere, in the things mentioned above.
  • For the average user, PC’s still own the market. In spite of some of the advantages above, only certain people truly benefit from the added cost of purchasing a Mac.  PC’s have been around a long time, and their familiarity and cost still win the argument in most cases–simply because most people don’t use their computers enough to warrant the hike in cost to switch over.  Of course, there is still a tough choice for PC users over what kind to by.

So if you’re thinking of making the switch, it might just be worth it, or it might not.  I do hope the above helps a bit.  For me, a fairly serious computer user, I am very glad I bought a Mac.  But my situation is not that of  many others, and I’d always advise everyone to carefully evaluate their own situation before forking out a lot of their hard-earned money.  Unless you run a Ponzi scheme, in which case you can do as you like.

The only case I’ll make a fervent pitch is the iPod Touch, which I am an avid fan of.  I do believe that might surface in a future post, where my love affair will publicly make itself known for the first time.