I am an independent audio-visual consultant (I do lighting as well) for major performing arts auditoriums, theaters and huge churches throughout the world. I am heavily dependent on my computers everyday to conduct, gather, and organize research, design, model, and test systems, and "cruise the web" in what little spare time I have left. In addition to one windows computer, I own four Macs as well--I guess I'm biased towards the Mac platform even though I use both platforms.
Why do I prefer using a Mac rather than a windows based computer? It really boils down to a matter of PREFERENCE and what you want to do with the computer. IMHO if you're serious about doing graphics or desktop video and want to make a career out of it, I feel that the Mac still has the edge in terms of ease of use, reliability, efficiency over any Wintel solution. Yeah, XP has made life easier in this regard, but quite frankly it still has a ways to go. If you are the type that likes the challenge of going to the local pc store and put together your own computer from spare parts on the shelf for as little cost as possible, you won't be happy using a Mac, just stick to Windows.
I use my Mac computers for my home business as a consultant, and rely very heavily on them to get the job done in a quick efficient manner with as little trouble as possible. The only reason I use windows is that I have a $6000 acoustical modeling & analysis package that I use on that machine that is not available on the Macintosh (there are only a couple hundred of us in the world who own this package, too small of a market to make a package work on two platforms, just getting it to work on the wintel platform is trouble enough), and to check that my AutoCAD files translated properly before going to an architect. Other than that, I have little trouble finding the software I need to do my everyday work. I use MS Office, Wordperfect, IE, OE, Filemaker, MYOB Account Edge, Palm Desktop, Acrobat, Canvas, Photoshop, Pagemaker, Vellum, just to name a few. Just because you don't see a heck of a lot of software titles in your local PC shop that are compatible with the Mac doesn't mean that there's a shortage of applications, it's just that most Mac users like myself find it more convenient to download the software off the web or order it through mail order. Yes, probably there are a lot more games and utilities out there for your PC, but a lot of them are junk that are not worth buying anyway--I think that the Mac has just about every software category covered with *excellent* options.
With regards to advantages of a Mac over PC, here's a few:
A lot less viruses--I don't even use antivirus s/w and never had a virus on my Macs, and have been a heavy internet user for the past 7 years. I don't worry about having to update my operating system with the service pack of the week just to patch up another new-found vulnerability in my operating system.
Easy to learn and unified user interface--between different apps the user interface is very similar, you learn one program, it's easier to learn a 2nd, 3rd, etc.
Greater stability--Macs, if set up correctly, hardly ever crash. Yes you read that correctly. I have a Mac server that I set up about 4 years ago that has not crashed once. Sure I took it down for the usual upgrades, office moves, yet it still keeps chugging away 24/365. Kinda like the energizer bunny.
More efficient--take a PowerPC 1GHz and compare it to an Intel Pentium4 at the same speed and you will find that the PowerPC dances circles around the Intel in some tests, and in other tests lag behind. Then again, I take benchmarks with a grain of salt these days, it's almost impossible to compare apples with oranges here. Yes Intel has faster GHz CPU's for the same amount of money or less, but what can I say when Motorola is dragging their feet in coming out with faster processors? I wish Apple would dump Motorola and get something faster for a processor.
More expensive--yes, they cost more, but then again you need to look beyond those newspaper ads and realize that the price you pay for a computer is more than the cost of stuff you buy off the shelf. This might sound like a bunch of PR propaganda, but it really it boils down to the total cost of the user experience. With a Mac, I spend a heck of a lot less time maintaining my Mac than I would with a PC. To me time is money, and if I have to waste half a day because a PC doesn't cooperate with me and a client is waiting impatiently for a report, that's money lost and hopefully deferred. With my Mac I continue to depend on it to produce for me, and it has yet to fail me in this regard. I plug in a CD Rom, it works. I plug in a USB PCMCIA card, load the driver, it works. I plug in a keyboard, it works. No fumbling around with "plug and pray" with a Mac. It just works. Yes it costs more and you might see that as a disadvantage, but I see it as money well spent for a lot less aggravation in the future. Really, if you sit down and look at similarly *equipped* macs versus PCs, the difference is not that much, and don't forget that the very top of the line mac is always a couple hundred dollars more just for being the top of the line. Other manufacturers do the same thing to a certain extent. BTW, if I get something from the Apple store, I will get as few options as possible, third party memory, hard drives, etc are *always* cheaper. Just the way things are.
Not enough software--See above comments. Hmmm, I can't remember the last time I tried to find a type of software that I couldn't find an appropriate program to address my needs on the Mac, just that one $6K acoustical modeling package. Yeah there is lot more variety within each software type, but when you whittle the vast choices down to the few programs that are really worthy of having, quite frankly I don't think I'm missing much on the Mac side of things. I don't play games that much, so perhaps the windows platform has more and better games than the Mac, I'm satisfied with Unreal and Marathon and a few shockwave games to pass the time (what little I have to spare).
Software compatibility--this may be a stumbling point if a PC user is using a program that doesn't have a Mac equivalent, but for the most part I have no troubles since all my clients have MS Office and Acrobat reader. I can pop in PC formatted floppies, Zips, CD Roms and read files directly from these media. I can zip, stuff, compress files to/from Windows and expand them without any problems. MS Office for the Mac can read and work directly with PC formatted Word, Excel, Powerpoint files, without any external translators necessary to go either direction. Sure, if you use a weird font on one computer, you will have problems on another computer without that font, but that's common to any platform.
Less Speed--read my argument above regarding efficiency, and then throw all those benchmarks into the wind. Yes a Mac is slower, but unless you're rendering hours of movies on your computer I really don't think it makes much difference when you're doing casual browsing or word processing and spreadsheet work. Speed isn't everything IMHO--it's a dead horse that has been pummeled too many times. You buy what you can afford. I think it's a waste to spend a premium just to get the top of the line. Save money and choose a midrange G5 if you're buying new. If you're really budget conscious, then get an iMac.
Really, I have nothing against Windows, it's a great platform, and has its advantages and disadvantages as well. By the same token, I'm not saying that Macs are perfect either. I have embraced both platforms with my work, and found the strengths of both to fit my needs. I choose to work mostly on a Mac because that's my preference and I have fun doing so (a computer that's fun, what a concept!!!). I've worked with Macs ever since their inception in the 80's, and find them to be intuitive, reliable, efficient, and enjoyable to work with. With OSX out now, the prospects are even more exciting with the built-in UNIX capabilities.
Don't take my word for it, ask the nice people in the All Things Macintosh forum. Look through some of the older threads for more reasons why people like me "think different." :o)
"Macs are expensive" is a common mantra among general computer users, and in fact probably a lot of people probably wouldn't consider buying a Mac when faced with sub-$500 computer rigs offered by Dell, Compaq, or even an independently-built computer. And for the most part, it's correct: the up-front cost of a Mac vs. a PC is a bit higher.
But up-front costs aren't the only factor in the value of the equipment. In this article we'll look at a few more things to consider when buying a computer. What we find is that Macs actually cost less than PCs over the long term, they're more durable, and have a much higher resale value. This isn't just opinion, either: check the links at the bottom for more reading.
When most smart people look into buying something, they look at the Total Cost of Operation (TCO), rather than the up-front costs of a product. Let's use a printer as a quick example. Yeah, there may be a Lexmark at Wal-Mart for $29, but factor that in with the cost of the ink cartridge x however many years of use you get out of said printer. Paying $50 for a new cartridge every few weeks (if you do lots of printing) would cost you WAY more in the long run, and if you'd done a little shopping around maybe you could find a printer that costs a little more, but the ink cartridges are significantly cheaper.
Macs have a lower TCO than most PCs. All kinds of studies have been done to prove this, look them up. But I believe the numbers are around $250/year for a PC vs. $50/year for a Mac.
Smart people will want to consider the durability of a product as well. How many years of significant use will you get out of it? Macs have a longer shelf life than your average PC. There's iBooks and Power Macs and iMacs out there in the field today that are pushing 4 and 5 years, yet they're still highly productive and usable machines.
Most folks junk a PC after 2-3 years and buy a new one. But a lot Mac users keep their machines for the long haul. In this forum alone we have active Pismo users, classic iMac users, Power Mac G3 users, and more.
Finally, if you're smart you're also interested in what kind of resale value a product has. IBM clones have nearly no resale whatsoever. They drop like a rock after just a few months. Apple computers have some of the highest resale on anything I've ever seen before. Take a look at the used prices for Power Macs, for instance. A 2-3 year old Power Mac is still worth well over 800 dollars or more.
It's just like shopping for a car, see. Are you going to go out and buy the cheapest thing you can find? Hell no. You're going to consider things like TCO, durability, and resale value. Same is true for any high-dollar purchase you might make. The smart consumer is not going to waste their time with the cheap crap. And yes, in fact, most Mac users are smarter. But you already knew that, right?
Apple's a premium kind of company. They just don't sell low-end equipment like Dell & others do. And if you price out a similarly-equipped PC with a Mac, you can easily pay just as much for the PC. You're not going to touch a Mercedes for under $20,000 are you? Of course not. And no one is complaining about Mercedes. (Mercedes has an even smaller slice of the pie in the car market than Apple has in the computer market!)
So why exactly would Apple lower prices? Are they worried about losing customers? No, quite the opposite. A lot of companies would kill for the kind of consumer loyalty Apple has earned. You think they should lower prices (reduce revenue) to compete with bargain-basement under cutters like Dell, Gateway, etc? Apple isn't competing with them. Apple sells to their own market. Either you get it or you don't. There's no foundation for Mercedes to try and "beat" the price of a Pinto, either.
Overall, it has been my experience that the cheaper product ends up being the costlier. Some folks only "see" the up-front costs. Wiser folks see the TOTAL cost.
Links for further reading
»www.macobserver.com/comm ··· ?id=5982
»www.pbs.org/cringely/pul ··· 814.html
And one more link, a brand new one: »www.linuxinsider.com/sto ··· 120.html
If you are a *NIX user who would like to learn more about Mac OS X, or a Mac user who would like to learn some background information on Apple's advanced operating system, this is a good place to start. This well-written article by Amit Singh provides a systematic explanation of the history, evolution, architecture, and features of Mac OS X. It was originally intended as an accompanying reference article for a presentation he gave to his workplace's Linux usergroup. I would recommend reading it through from start to finish for maximum impact.
There's also a new article that provides a soup-to-nuts history of the Apple operating systems.
And M A R S found another history here
From GUI-Avoider to OS X by Mary Stamper is an in-depth look at how to get your feet wet with OS X from the standpoint of a programmer/*nix user. It addresses some of the great features in OS X that help you get the most out of the experience.