Mac vs PC

Recently when I recommended what computer to buy I didn’t even mention Apple products like the iMac, MacBook or MacBook Air.  I still whole-heartedly recommend the purchase of a Microsoft Windows-based PC – here’s why.

The main reason is the purchase price.  Apple computers generally cost at least 1.5 times more than the equivalent Windows PC.  For example compare desktop machines – the iMac that starts at $1200 with an all-in-one Windows desktop that costs $800 – and the Windows machine has a bigger screen, more RAM, and a bigger hard drive.  With laptops a MacBook with a 13.3 inch screen will run around $1200, while a Windows laptop with a 17.3″ screen costs $700 and again has more RAM, a bigger hard drive and a better graphics card.  The MacBook Air is a different beast since it has a special Solid State Drive (SSD) that has no moving parts, instead of a regular spinning hard drive.  It is the SSD that is also used in tablets to get that “instant on” effect, and allow them to be so slim.  It is only recently that Windows PC equivalents called “Ultrabooks” were released, but the price difference is still there – $1300 for a MacBook Air with 128 GB SDD versus $900 for an Ultrabook equivalent with a 330 GB SSD.

Mac vs PC - MacBook Air versus Ultrabook

Apple computers also have higher ongoing costs because software is not backwards compatible.  This means that if you upgrade the operating system (Macs run Mac OS) then you will also have to pay for upgrades to all the software you run on the computer.  With the Windows operating system and new versions allow you to continue running the existing versions of software you’ve purchased.  Now, some might argue that this is limited to third party software packages because when you pay for a Mac OS upgrade you also get upgrades to the Apple software that comes standard with a Mac .  At any rate, the cost is more.

In the past, some have said that the Mac computer offers a premium user experience – a better design interface and more stable product.  You can expect to turn on a Mac and it will “just work”.  With Windows this wasn’t the case – for example Windows Vista had all kinds of interface changes and problems that made it a brute.  But in my opinion this is truly in the past – with the release of the Windows 7 operating system I believe that Microsoft has “caught up” with Apple.

So if you have the cash go ahead and buy a Mac, but I think you’d be better off with your money in your pocket and a Windows PC instead.  The future also looks great for Microsoft – rumours are that the release of Windows 8 with touchscreen capabilities on Ultrabooks will mean a slim, instant-on, touchscreen computer that can be both a laptop and tablet.  Of course Apple may come out with something that combines the best of the iPad and MacBook Air too.

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  1. says

    “Apple computers also have higher ongoing costs because software is not backwards compatible. This means that if you upgrade the operating system then you will also have to pay for upgrades to all the software you run on the computer. ”

    Huh? This is patent nonsense.

    I’ve upgraded various Macs through OS versions over the years and transitioned to new hardware. Run old software all the time. Much more often is the case that new versions of these applications don’t support an older OS that you might still be running. If XP wasn’t so entrenched, I’d imagine this would be the case for Windows 7 software developers too.

    I can only assume you’re referring to ‘Rosetta’ being dropped from OS X 10.7, five years after the last PowerPC-based Mac shipped. Anyone looking at Macs today will be unaffected by this*.

    *Except for Quicken. Intuit is a pack of idiots and still doesn’t have a version of its Mac software that works with Intel-based Macs, but it’s still not a point in favour of your claim, since you can’t even buy a new version of Quicken. Idiots.

    • says

      Here are some links / excerpts that appear to support what I’m talking about.

      • Oxford University Computing Services: To date, Apple has released new versions of Mac OS X about every 2 years. Typically, each new version introduces a few features that are not fully backwards compatible. Mac software is regularly updated to use these features, which means that there can be no guarantee that Mac software (Apple or third-party) will run on all versions of the operating system. It is important when upgrading or installing software to check that it is compatible with the version of OS X that you run on your Mac.
      • Known issues | Adobe products | Mac OS 10.7 Lion
      • On the importance of backward compatibility: A lot of developers and engineers don’t agree with this way of working. If the application did something bad, or relied on some undocumented behavior, they think, it should just break when the OS gets upgraded. The developers of the Macintosh OS at Apple have always been in this camp. It’s why so few applications from the early days of the Macintosh still work…

        To contrast, I’ve got DOS applications that I wrote in 1983 for the very original IBM PC that still run flawlessly, thanks to the Raymond Chen Camp at Microsoft.

        I can almost feel the revulsion among my readership right about now. However, next time you’re in Best Buy or CompUSA, look at the shelf of Windows applications, then compare it to the shelf of Mac applications, and perhaps you’ll better understand why it’s important.

  2. says

    Your first link is talking about new versions of applications that breaking compatibility, not the OS; just as some new software for the new Windows 8 won’t work on earlier Windows releases.

    Of course the OS updates do break some software; however your post says:
    “you will also have to pay for upgrades to all the software you run on the computer“, which is simply false.

    I’ve only had to pay for two applications’ upgrades over the years to stay at the current OS release out of the dozens and dozens of applications I use.

    YMMV, etc etc

    Lots of reasons to not buy a Mac, but this really isn’t one of them.

    • says

      Ok – I’ll strike out this argument :-)

      BTW – I absolutely love Apple products and even own an iPhone, iPod and Apple TV – just can’t justify the cost for the full-fledged computer (Macs) or the tablet (iPad). Also I use free software that is not compatible with Macs.

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