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Posted by: Kim_Hamilton on 05/15/2012 09:07 AM Updated by: Kim_Hamilton on 05/15/2012 12:17 PM
Expires: 01/01/2017 12:00 AM

Should I get a Mac or a PC?” I get asked this a lot~by Blair Wiley of Wiley Computer Works

Let’s examine this from a few different angles, but I think the most important factor is, what do most of the people you collaborate with use? In communication, in collaboration and in mutual support, different isn’t better. “Different” would be like this... You’re on a committee of people who all speak English, but one of the members has such a thick Scottish accent that no one can understand him very easily. Soon the person who is different becomes less and less a part of the work group and ends up .....

working more and more on his own, with fewer people with whom to share ideas or share projects, and with no one to ask questions of for tips and tricks and for recommendations.

Thus, if most people you’d work with have a Mac, then strongly consider a Mac. If most of them have a PC, or if you’re not sure, then get a PC, because that’s what most of the world has, along with most of your country, state and town.

If you use your Mac for business, then you’ll need a PC, too, because of the what the Mac CAN’T do (almost certainly, although a PC can be built into the Mac for an additional $400 to $1000 for software and labor – through Parallels and Virtual Machine, or Boot Camp, but then you’re still setting up two computers and still have a PC to maintain inside the Mac). Conversely, if you use your PC for business, you WON’T also need a Mac to supplement it. A PC can do it all. It was designed to be all things to all people, meaning it’s an open system. Anyone can write and sell software for a PC. Most software developers support PCs first, Macs second, and usually only PCs.

Why are there things that a Mac WON’T do? The main reason is because Apple says so. It’s a closed system. The other reason is that since Apple has to say so, most developers don’t bother, so the market has stayed small, so the developers still don’t bother, so the market still stays small. It’s a vicious circle and I can’t see this changing any time soon.

The iPad has become popular and convenient, and there are lots of apps for it (that Apple said okay to), but it still won’t run QuickBooks or your other business-specific software. The iPad is good for convenience, portability and speed of communication (like a smart phone, and easier to use), but not for productivity where you need to sit at a station and do a lot of typing, or for reviewing documents emailed to you by friends or co-workers who use PCs. The pad and tablet market might evolve later this year with the release of Windows 8, which is getting good previews and will be tablet-ready.

So what would make you want to switch to a Mac? You could be fed up with your PCs. The allure of a supposedly “trouble free” computer is tempting. A current Mac owner tells you he never has any problems at all and his Mac does everything he needs it to do, plus there’s software that “only runs on Macs” that he uses for wonderful artistic projects. And the snob appear is irresistible, and kind of fun.

Regarding the “Mac only” software, this is like stories we used to hear saying so-and-so would have died in their car crash if they HAD been wearing their seat belt, so it’s lucky that they weren’t. In rare circumstances, this is true. But in most circumstances, it isn’t. People get used to how their software works and have a hard time switching to new software. You would have to learn new software when switching in either direction. You would likely have to buy new software, as well, for anything beyond the basics of web browsing and email. You could adjust eventually, if you wanted to. And so could they.

As for being “trouble free”, your troubles are just different now, and your support is less. The general consensus is: fewer little everyday computer problems, but when Mac problems occur, they’re big and expensive to fix and often includes a trip to the Mac store. And when you have questions about what software to use or how you make it do a certain thing, your rolodex just got much smaller. However, there are strong Mac users groups in most areas, most likely because Mac users need it whereas PC users find it easier to get answers in many different places, like in the office or from their friends or with a quick Google search. PCs are main stream. Mac user groups have great camaraderie because they tend to be advanced users and hobbyists who like the feeling of coming together with other like-minded non-conformists. It’s elite. It’s like riding a Harley compared to driving a car. Which is right for you?

People who write viruses usually don’t bother with Macs, but neither do many people who write legitimate software, and both for the good guys and for the bad guys, it’s because the market is small, and in the case of the good guys, it’s also because they’d have to get approval from Apple. According to one security bulletin I read, it’s just as easy to write viruses for the Mac as it is for the PC, it’s just too small of a target to bother with. So most Mac users don’t even bother with anti-virus software (which Apple seems to encourage going without in order to keep their legend of invincibility alive – I read on a blog that they removed from their web site their recommendation to run anti-virus software on the Mac). When a Mac does get a virus, however, there are only a few anti-virus products that run on Macs, and again, many people just take it to the Mac store. I recently heard $400 for virus removal at the Mac store. Same with crashed hard drives and other problems that would be easier to fix on a PC. You’d most likely take it to the Mac store, and it’s going to be even pricier than PC repair. It’s rare on either system, but it happens.

What about being so fed up with your PC that you’d never get one again? People who get a new Mac just can’t believe how well it runs. Well, a new PC runs just as well and costs a lot less (and is serviceable locally). If you let your PC get really old and you pay to keep it running for just another year each year, no doubt you’re going to be increasingly frustrated with it, like with an old car or a worn out pair of shoes. A PC this old no longer represents PCs today. A PC this old runs so slowly because the world around has changed so much. But it’s still running, sort of, and you hate to see it go to waste so you keep utilizing it, again, like an old car or an old pair of shoes. An old Mac runs just as badly and is even more difficult to update. A new PC is designed for today’s world and will run just as well as a new Mac.

If the PC you had was a lemon – and it does happen, I’ve seen it a couple of times, and it’s frustrating and unfair – there’s often little you can do once you’re beyond the warranty period. You can punish the PC makers by getting a Mac, but you might be punishing yourself, too, by limiting your options and complicating your world. Your office will still have to have a PC, and now you’re introducing compatibility issues and multiple backup systems, adding cost and inconvenience.

New Mac users generally learn to get by with what they have to do without. Like switching from a four wheel drive truck to a two wheel drive, you just learn to adapt and adjust. You learn to get by on less. And you usually brag about it to others how well it worked out and try to invite them into your world. But the Mac’s US market share is still under 15% for a reason. Different isn’t better just by being different. People get sick of PCs and switch to Macs, but then they get sick of Macs and switch to PCs, too, so that they only have to have one computer or can be more easily compatible with the other PCs on their network and use the same files or databases.

Macs are only for people very comfortable with running computers. If you feel like a novice, stick with the main stream and get a PC. Macs cost more and do less (if you need to use business-specific software). They don’t have as many quirks that come up, but they don’t have as much support available, either. They don’t let you tweak settings nearly as much as a PC does, so whatever quirks Macs do develop are more difficult to solve, and very likely, you’ll just learn to live with it and then think everything is fine. Like a car you love, you’ll defend it and praise it to the end of the Earth.

But from a practical standpoint, it’s just easier not to be different from those you work with, and in over 85% of the cases, that means get a PC.

One final note. One of the limitations I mentioned above is seen as a benefit to the IT support staff in big companies. If handing out company phones to employees, an IT manager might prefer that they all had iPhones simply because employees CAN’T mess with them. That means less work for the IT department having to straighten out everyone’s tweaking and experimenting and downloading whatever apps they wanted. It’s more frustrating to the tech savvy employees to have the limited freedom of Apple products, but the IT department is more concerned with their own work load and prefers the fact that employees can’t mess them up as easily. That’s one reason you might see them in large companies. That’s not because they’re better in some other way, it’s because they’re more restricted. Sometimes restrictions help in large crowds who only need certain abilities managed by a few people, but technical restrictions are more of a hindrance than a help for a small business where you need to do it all.

For help with your computer needs (Macs, too), call Blair Wiley of Wiley Computer Works at 209-768-2354.

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