PC vs. Mac – the extras
If you don't like what you see in your bundled applications, you can find replacements in third-party programs. The variety of third-party applications that run under Windows is exponentially larger than that for Macs – especially for games. For every Windows application, there's usually a Mac version as well, whether it's an email program, word processor, spreadsheet package, photo editor, or inventory software. In addition, the Mac has long run Microsoft's ubiquitous Office applications, including Word and Excel.
On top of that, the long-term trend in computing is toward ‘cloud computing’, where you access applications over the Internet rather than on your computer. In other words, both the software and your own information reside at the hosting company's website. A big advantage of cloud computing is that you can access your information and do your work from any computer – Mac or PC.
In fact, you've probably seen this in action with email programs without even knowing it. When you use a Gmail or Yahoo! Mail account, you're computing in the cloud.
This remote-application trend will grow. Google, for example, now offers Google Apps, a suite of programs with Web-based word processing, spreadsheet analysis, calendaring, photo-organizing and email capability.
There used to be just one school of thought on the price of PCs versus Macs – Macs cost more. But that's no longer the case. When you take two machines identically equipped, be they desktop or notebook, PCs and Macs cost about the same, sometimes a bit in the PCs and sometimes a bit in the Macs.
In addition to the base price of a system, you need to consider ongoing costs, like the following:
- Every Windows-based PC needs antivirus software, and that requires an annual subscription.
- Both companies release an OS upgrade about once a year. The Windows update is free; the Macs is not (the most recent one cost $129).
- Windows’ frequent bug and security fixes take time to download and install, a blow to your productivity (and, in all likelihood, your patience).
Almost all PC manufacturers – whether for PCs or Apple – offer a year of parts and labour free. Apple's warranty also covers personalized service at its "Genius Bars", staffed help desks at their retail stores. Make a reservation online and show up at the agreed-upon time and an Apple rep will be there to help you.
Apple's phone support, however, lasts only 90 days, after which you have to pay per call for live troubleshooting. Most Windows PC makers offer free phone support for a year.
You can buy an extended warranty for Windows PCs for $200 to $400 for three years of parts and labour. Apple's extended warranty, for three years’ parts and labour plus phone support and Genius Bar service, costs $249.
So where do you go from here? A good first step is to visit an Apple store and then an electronics retailer to test-drive both types of system. (Or better yet, go to a store that sells both Macs and Windows PCs.) Check out how much flexibility you have in customizing your system. Can you order more memory, for example, or add a second hard drive? Talk with a store representative about the kinds of things you want to do. Put each OS through its paces: boot up the system from scratch, load an application, browse the Web, check out the bundled software. Which feels best to you?
Then go home and think: Am I a Mac or a PC?
Made your decision? Now for the next – are you a desktop or a laptop?
And, do you need a little more help in your business? Find out how to source reliable IT support.
Published on: Monday, October 18, 2010