Technology & Science

Mac vs. PC

04.12.09 | 5 Comments

PC vs. Mac

Well, it seems that Apple has taken enough share and market leadership that it’s prompted Microsoft and the hardware companies to stand up and make an argument about the Apple “cool tax” in a series of guerilla marketing ads. Congrats Apple, you’re relevant, you’re being attacked.

Before going on, I should declare myself. In 2003, after having a PC shipped to me via UPS to be disinfected for the umpteenth time by family members I said “there has got to be a better way.” Literally, as a family IT support center (me,) I found that I was spending on the order of 20 hours a year per affected computer doing things like optimizing disks, updating virus protection, disinfecting computers when day zero threats weren’t caught, fighting hardware and software incompatibilities, and reinstalling software from the ground up at least on an annual basis. Figure this to be about 300 hours per year.

I’m a techie, I can do these things, my family couldn’t. However, as the base of computers expanded, my ability to keep up with the 20 hours of maintenance per computer per year was severely challenged. So, I decided to try a Mac to see what was different or if there was anything “better” about it. To be clear, I’m a gearhead and had been using various forms of Linux and getting great personal results, but shuddered at the prospect of sending these computers to family members to use as desktops (today, Ubuntu might change that assessment, but I digress.)

I was biased against Macs, my belief, expensive and not very useful. Funny how an OS can change all that. With the new OS, I got everything I was familiar with in Linux, power and stability, along with a user interface and applications that worked well together. The first week was a little rough as I recall unlearning all the bad habits I’d picked up through the years, but within a month I found myself saying “where have you been all my life?” to this little expensive computer.

The result was I took a stand saying “I don’t know anything about Windows, if you want support, get a Mac.” That has resulted in a strong conversion across the family unit so that today, I spend, perhaps, 20 hours in total across the entire Mac community and then mostly with issues that result in a trip to the Genius bar or hardware replacement. That represents a savings of 280 hours per year over PCs – use your own rate, what is that time worth to you? Are Macs perfect, hell no. There are many irritating aspects to them – not the least of which is this “cool lifestyle thing.”

But with the recent hyperbole around the “Mac Tax,” I thought I’d add my voice to the discussion and simply state some facts:

  • Macs cost more to acquire – It’s not debatable, they do. You probably spend $500 more to acquire a Mac than an equivalent PC.
  • Macs cost less to operate – It’s not debatable, they do. If you like screwing around with hardware and software, knock yourself out. If you want the machine to work with little hassle, buy a Mac.
  • If a viable alternative was available, I’d try it – If I could get the usability, integration, and low cost of operation available with a Mac along with the capital acquisition cost of a PC, I’d try it. I’m not married to Apple, it’s simply the best option now.

We all know how this works, you can pay now (Mac) or you can pay later (PC) – but you’re going to pay. If you’re going to pay, then you should simply select the platform that makes the most sense for you. If you’re technically capable and want to screw around with computers all the time, and your time is less valuable, then by all means, buy a PC. If you’re more concerned with the work you can perform with your computer, you’re less technically capable or curious, or your time is extremely valuable, buy a Mac. Cool isn’t the issue, incredible convenience and delightful experience is.

If Microsoft and it’s hardware pals understood this, they’d be investing to fix the core issue instead of picking, an admittedly irritating, but irrelevant aspect in the decision for most rational beings. These dollars are best invested in curing the disease, but then again, that’s hard. Railing against a “cool tax” is easy. You now know their priorities to make your life and experience with their products better.

There you have it. Caveat emptor.