Mac or PC for Real Estate Agents?

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We all love the Mac vs. PC commercials. My personal favorite being the one above; the irony of Apple targeting Microsoft’s advertising budget gets me every time. But how much is really true, and which is right for you, a real estate agent?

What is a PC, Really?

Let’s start by explaining that PC literally means Personal Computer, so Macs actually qualify as a PC. Apple is trying to distance themselves from the reputation of a computer being hard to use and prone to crashes, and thus don’t call their computers “PC.”

What Apple means by PC is a computer running Microsoft Windows. Almost 90% of computers today run some version of Windows. Windows Vista is the latest version, and Windows 7 is being released very soon. Macs run OS X, which is a heavily modified version of the very mature Unix operating system. Unix has been around forever, and is actually much older than Windows.

So, only the operating systems are different?  What about…

The Hardware

Don’t be fooled. Macs run on Intel platforms, just like Windows machines. The only difference, hardware-wise, between the machines is the chassis. You can safely say that Apple uses high quality hardware, including excellent screens, but none of which you cannot find for your Windows computer.

If the hardware is the same, why are Macs (seemingly) more expensive?

Price

Macs do have the reputation of being more expensive than their Windows counterparts. For example, the cheapest MacBook you can buy is $999, while you can get an HP or Dell laptop for under $500. However, make sure you compare apples to apples (snark!). Apple provides you fewer choices in hardware, but they only choose components of a relatively high quality, and they test them heavily against their operating system. You need to determine how important this is to you.

Compare a $999 Dell (for example) to a $999 MacBook, feature for feature, then determine which ones you can live without, if any. You can have a plethora of options and price competition when buying a Windows machine, or you can trust Apple to make the bulk of those decisions for you, and pass along the price however they see fit.

All reputable PC manufacturers do test their hardware with Windows, and they provide competitive warranties.

Application Compatibility

There are a lot of programs that run on both Mac OS X and Windows, with Microsoft Office being an excellent example. However, one of the problems with having about 10% market share, is that a lot of programmers ignore your platform when writing computer programs and websites. It takes effort to make your programs cross-platform, and a lot of companies feel it is not cost-justified.

Two glaring examples of this are FMLS and GAMLS. FMLS.com and GAMLS RE/Xplorer 2 both use a technology called ActiveX, which installs a little program on your computer before you can use their listing searches. ActiveX is a Microsoft Internet Explorer technology and does not work in other internet browsers like FireFox and Safari. You cannot install Internet Explorer on a Mac, and thus cannot use the FMLS and GAMLS searches from your Mac OS.

However, there are nifty ways to actually run Windows on your Mac.

Windows on a Mac

Apple knows about this compatibility problem, and they have come up with a creative solution. You can install Windows Vista/XP on your Mac hardware, then run those incompatible programs right inside of Windows.

There are two ways. The first way is to install Windows via a built-in utility called Boot Camp. Whenever you need to run a program in Windows, you can reboot the computer into Windows and run it there. However, this requires a system reboot, and who wants to reboot every time you want to do a listing search?

So, there is a second way. For $79.95, you can buy one of two products (either Fusion or Parallels) that run Windows inside of Mac OS X. This way, you can run Internet Explorer in Windows in a window on your Mac!

One big caveat with either approach is that you must buy a full copy of Windows, and the Mac Geniuses at the Mac Store will not help you install it. You’re a bit on your own with this setup, so plan on bribing your favorie techie. We like cookies. Windows Vista Home Basic edition is $199.99 at Best Buy.

Viruses, Trojans, and Spyware? No Way!

Apple will lead you to believe that PCs will submit your social security number to identity thieves, then crash and destroy your data, all in the first 20 minutes. If Windows was as evil as Apple portrays, it would not be so popular.

There is a seed of truth to the campaign. Let’s pretend you are a terrible person who writes malicious software, and you set out to destroy the world, one computer at a time. Would you target 90% of the market, or 10%?

Windows machines are more susceptible to viruses simply because they are more prevalent. Macs can get viruses.

The biggest enemy to Windows are its users. If you do not maintain virus protection, and you do not keep Windows updated (automatically, through the aptly named Windows Update feature), then you can very well get malicious software on your computer.

You must remain diligent to protect yourself. Even a Mac cannot protect you from giving out your account numbers because you got an email asking for them.

Recommendations

I have some suggestions for you to consider when buying your next personal computer. The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to make an educated purchase.

Check into the Mac compatibility of programs you use every day, and do it before you buy. A quick way to check compatibility of internet programs is to download Safari for Windows, and browse to your favorite sites. If they work in Safari on Windows, they will work in Safari on Mac OS.

Metro Brokers only develops web applications that are compatible with Safari, and thus Mac. We have only one service to our agents that is not Safari-friendly, and that is our webmail. We use Microsoft Exchange Server to host our email system, and it has reduced functionality in non-Internet Explorer browsers. However, we do have plans underway for an e-mail overhaul within the next year or so.

Remember to factor in the cost of the virtual machine software and Windows, if you need compatibility. That’s another $280 on top of the Mac hardware cost.

Don’t fall for the hype, in either direction. Check your facts, and play around with the computers in the store. Compare feature to feature, and talk to people you know who have some experience on either platform.

Know your budget, and don’t break it. If you get the impulse to buy while in the Mac Store before you are prepared (it happens to the best of us), step away and think about it overnight. Hit the web and do some research on your own first. You won’t regret the time you spent.

I personally use Dell, at home and the office. I do have a MacBook for development and testing, because we choose not to ignore the 10% while creating new programs. The reason I use Windows is because of application compatibility. I use many programs that do not run on a Mac, so it simply doesn’t make sense for me to use one every day.

I will not recommend that you choose one over the other. I think you should educate yourself, and make the decision based on your situation and personal needs.

Good luck in your search, and power to the informed consumer!

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28 Responses to “Mac or PC for Real Estate Agents?”

  1. Arthur Harris Says:

    Good posts especially for folks like me who are techy impaired.

  2. Pat Viohl Says:

    I am also techy impaired, andyou know, better the beast you know than the one you do not! I am happy with the PC platform and suspect I will remain a PC user. Good points you make about MAC compatibility with some programs – for those reasons alone, I would stick to a PC….

    At the end of the day, I think it comes down to the platform you are most comfortable with and which meets your needs.

  3. Joyce Kuffuor Says:

    Excellent info Eddie, I’ve learned something new and important today. Thanks!

  4. Sandra Rodrick Says:

    This is an excellent blog and for me is very timely. Just this weekend I was discussing the pros and cons of laptops vs destops and MACs vs PCs with someone I felt was in the know but the conversation still me feeling uncertain, with too many questions. Knowing I need a computer set up at home to compete in today’s world, it’s been stressful trying to manage my needs to a corresponding budget. Your info in this blog has helped put it in perspective. I’ve been told I’m a creative person and therefore should be more MAC oriented but couldn’t get past the fact that there are more PCs than MACs. When asking why the difference, the answers were never clear until today. As a child, I was taught “The Farmer’s in the Dell”, but it look like soon an OM will be joining him! Thanks for this.

    • Eddie Krebs Says:

      I hear a lot about Macs targeting the “Creatives.” There are a few reasons behind this I think. Mac OS X includes photo and video editing software, and the screens on Macs are very high quality, resulting in good color quality while editing.

      Adobe Photoshop, in particular, opens very quickly on a Mac, much faster than Windows. I never really figured out why, but it’s nice if you use Photoshop often.

      However, Windows 7 includes Movie Maker and a new Photo Gallery that includes the cool facial recognition included with Mac’s iPhoto. All the major photo/video editing programs work in Windows as well.

      Windows users, I would definitely recommend upgrading to Windows 7. It looks to be a big step forward for Microsoft. It will be released October 22nd.

  5. Peter Holmes Says:

    I recently made the decision to switch to a MAC powerbook. The decision didn’t come easily as I had always been a pc user. Needless to say, I was very concerned about being able to use fmls, costar and other explorer based websites. I have been running windows xp pro parallel on the mac and the virtual machine does a splendid job. I utilize only 1 gig of ram and windows boots up in about 20 seconds. I usually just leave the virtual machine running and switch back and forth between MAC and “PC” as simply as minimizing and maximizing a window. What I love the most about the mac is whenever I open the laptop, the computer is ready to use in about 3 seconds. Overall I’m very pleased with apple products. If anyone is considering a mac and they plan on running windows parallel, I recommend upgrading the ram to 4 gig.

    As with any computer, there is a learning curve to learn a new system. For me, the switch was worth it. Apple’s quality is very high. Reliability and speed have met my expectations.

  6. Ennis Antoine Says:

    Great Job Eddie. I am in the market for a new laptop and you have answer a lot of my questions.

  7. Dwayne Rouse Says:

    Good write up. I’ve had a PowerMac G5 for 4 years now and disliked how I had to use my IBM ThinkPad for all my real estate stuff. I need to replace my dated ThinkPad and wanted to get a Macbook, but I think I’ll just upgrade the G5’s OS from OSX to leopard, max out the RAM, and get the Fusion upgrade with Vista. Seems to be the cheaper route than buying a replacement for the ThinkPad. Good stuff!!!!

  8. Carolyn Nungesser Says:

    I am with Peter. I too am a proud owner of a Mac OS and I continually ask myself why I waited so long. I find Mac’s operating system Logical. It just makes more sense and is so much easier than a PC. Yes, it takes some getting used to after exclusively using Windows for decades, but I love my Mac and I would never give it up.

    When I bought my Mac last fall I had Parallels and Windows XP loaded on so that I could use CTI Navigator for MLS. Wouldn’t you know that this portion of my Mac crashed, just the windows portion and so I am running Windows free until I decide what I want to do. In the meantime I own a refurbished IBM desktop that I keep at home to run all windows programs and CTI and take my Mac back and forth and use the office computers when I need to access the MLS on CTI. I have no problem with FMLS on my Mac, nor any other applications. You can purchase Mac’s iWork, an alternative to Microsoft Office.

    The only drawback for me is that I haven’t attended some of the free classes offered by Best Buy to train new Mac users, because I am confident that I haven’t even begun to realize the potential in this little but mighty machine!

    I wish CTI navigator would recognize us Mac users and create a platform that we could use without relying on Windows.

  9. Dottie Wise Says:

    Great article! A valuable lesson I learned from my father many years ago was to learn how to search for the information that you needed. He said, “You will never know everything, just know where and how to find the information.” Thank you Metro Brokers and Eddie Krebs, you are the go to guys!

  10. Dennis Doll Says:

    Good article Eddie.
    My first computer in 1982 (and Brady’s too)was an Apple II+ followed by a couple of IIe’s and a Mac later on. In the early 80’s Apple was the way to go and was the leader of the pack for several years.
    In 1989 I was drug kicking and screaming into a PC world and eventually got the hang of it. (and people today think they have technological overload!)
    In the early 90’s I read an article comparing using a PC and a Mac in terms of driving a car. The writer said with the PC you needed to know all about the transmission, engine, the carburator (before fuel injectors) and all the settings required to get the car started. ..on and on! With the Mac you only needed to know how to turn the key.
    Well a lot has changed in the past 15 years and I have become accustomed to a PC. I still think Apple has a better idea but Microsoft has done a good job of copying their system,and perfecting it in some ways. Apple’s failure to capture the large market was likely their belief that IBM was the big bad guy only to find out it was Bill Gates!
    For Me it all comes down to economics. I need a machine that can do the things I want it to do at a low cost and remain reliable for at least 3 or 4 years. If stolen or if it fails I need to be able to accept it and move on. PC’s win on that note. In fact I purchased a Toshiba lap top last month for well under $400! It is much the same unit I purchased 3 years ago that is still performing well.
    In the end I am still a Mac kind of guy but the PC does what I need it to do for much less.

  11. Steve Adkins Says:

    Oh how I love these types of discussions! 😉 I remember the days of going to computer store and comparing the speed of the systems by typing in C://windows/DIR (don’t ask how I remember that) and watching how fast the screen scrolls! Now that was the day. Since then I open my own business building and repairing PC’s, yes…. PC’s! So you could call me a PC Fan.

    But Eddie is right, they both have their advantages and drawbacks. And I loved Dennis’s comparison to a car (use to be an auto mechanic in my young days) and it’s really close. MAC’s can be a lot easier to use…. because they have less options. 😉

    I don’t work on PC’s anymore, who has time for that with real estate so good right now! 🙂 But I’m still an active gamer and love tinkering around with my own PC’s when I have time. And working on plans to build me a new rocking system! So I’ll stick with PC’s. They’ve been good to me over the years!

    And the old story of MAC’s never at risk for viruses, not true! They are at as much risk now-a-days as any PC. If you do what your suppose to with a PC you will never get a virus. I’ve owned multiple PC’s over the last 15 years and never had a virus in any of my computers, never!

    And I can buy 3 PC’s for the price of 1 MAC!

  12. Joyce Kuffuor Says:

    Not to change the subject but, can anyone tell me how to get the 25% discount from Sprint? I signed a contract, got a Palm Treo paying $99 monthly instead of the $75 I keep hearing about. Sprint said they are not aware of any discount for MB agents. Is there a secret code that I must give them or what? Please help!!!

  13. Kat Arrendale Says:

    I always wondered what the major difference between the two were. It’s nice to get unbiased information because usually I only hear “Mac is better!” or “Windows/PC is better!” So thanks for putting it simply and interesting.

  14. Tiki Carter Says:

    Thanks Eddie,

    The article actually gave me enough information to go into a store and interrogate the salesperson. I was clearly unfamiliar about the difference between PC and Apples. The television commercials made me believe that Apple was the best choice, so I guess there ads worked.

    • Eddie Krebs Says:

      If there is one place I will readily declare a winner, it is in the marketing and advertising. Apple’s marketing is genius. Their ads, stores, and industrial design are all beautiful and single-minded in their intention to make you a BELIEVER.

      Mac faithfuls are rabid devotees who shun you for merely mentioning PC benefits. I’ve never seen such devotion outside of religion. However, it really is only marketing.

  15. tylerbrenner Says:

    When out of the office, I like to do some graphic design work for my own personal enjoyment. Recently went the Mac route, and it’s been great! All of my artsy friends have always been true Mac followers, and couldn’t say enough good things about them.

    Art and video editting software can be very “RAM intensive”, and they just seem to work better on a Mac. It seems as if its a more secure environment. When I used to use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop on my Dell, it would freeze up at the wrong moment, and I would sometimes lose hours of work.

    So I’ve been converted. Purchased a 24″ iMac with 4 gigs of RAM and a huge 360GB hard drive. Tons of screen real estate, which is great for my art. It’s a great deal for an all-in-one for only $1500!

    Now, Macs are definitely not good at one particular thing: GAMES. If you are a computer gamer, and love to have the newest shoot-em-ups, then a Mac is NOT for you. Although the newer Macs are better in this arena, PC’s are still the king.

  16. India Rivera Says:

    Ok, I must admit that I have become heavily frustrated with PC’s and I am ready to try Mac. Eddie, you have answered a lot of my questions and I really appreciate it. However, I have one more. I have become quite efficient at upgrading my PC. Most of what I know about computers is self-taught so it’s been quite interesting to say the least. How hard is it to upgrade a Mac? I know that programs change frequently so I was concerned about the ease, cost, and ability to upgrade a mac. Thank you again for this.

    • Eddie Krebs Says:

      You can upgrade the hardware in Macs, but to varying degrees based on the model.

      In a MacBook or iMac, you can replace the hard disk and memory. In a Mac Mini, you can replace the hard disk, processor and memory. All will take a little skill in order to gain access because of the small form factor, and there are some best practices to ensure your new setup is correctly recognized by the OS. Check out this iMac post for a little more info: http://www.macworld.com/article/2496/2001/10/howtoimac.html

      Upgrading a Mac Pro is very similar to a PC. You get some extra bays and plenty of room to maneuver. This is your best bet if you are a tinkerer.

      Upgrading the operating system is very straightforward. Mac OS X Snow Leopard will come out in September for $29. You can upgrade just by popping in the disc and following the directions.

      By the way, Snow Leopard is an incremental upgrade (like Windows Service Packs, which are free), not a full version upgrade.

  17. Pete Canavan Says:

    PC vs. Mac

    Eddie I think you have covered most issues, but hear is my two cents:

    Working in the printing field, I have used both platforms since 1988. Both platforms are mature and work well. I think a lot depends on the users preference.
    I like both systems but for different reasons.

    The Macintosh operating system is based on a version of Unix, and is a powerful OS.
    I have seen the Macintosh computers completely replace priority systems such as the Scitex system costing well over $100,000.

    Macintosh computers are well suited for graphic applications and are used by most professional printing companies. For the average user, these graphic applications are very costly, complex and are overkill.
    If you plan to do any heavy graphical work buy as much ram as you can afford. This applies to either system.
    The basic Mac OSX system comes with many user-friendly applications, which are free and adequate for most users.

    A major factor will be price, as Macintosh computers are more costly to purchase.
    Software is another major consideration as most software is not compatible from one system to the other. If you now use one system and want to switch you may not be able to use your software.

    Many software applications are written for both systems but must be purchased separately for each system. (Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office come to mind.)

    The Apple OS is more user friendly, easier to use and the hardware is first class, but it comes at a price.

    Apple uses only hardware that conforms to their strict specifications which makes the whole system more reliable.

    Macintosh systems are less prone to virus attacks as viruses are more likely to be written for the 90% of computers in the world, which are PCs.

    At this time there is no way to run Microsoft Explorer on a Mac.
    You can use Safari, Google Chrome or Firefox, but some web sites are fully functional only with the MS Explorer browser.
    (On the newer Intel based Macs you can run both operating systems to overcome this issue but you will need to purchase and install the Microsoft operation system separately.)

    On the other hand:

    For the average Realtor I think a PC would be a better choice, mainly for compatibility and software issues, choice and cost.
    There is more software available, especially business software, for the PC because the PC has 90% of the market share.
    There is more choice of hardware and it is less costly for the PC.
    Competition between PC builders helps keep cost down.

    If you are thinking of switching systems the learning curve is another consideration.

    Remember, always back-up your important documents frequently as hard drives can fail any time, no matter which system you use!
    Separate external hard drives are a great way to do this.

    The newest Microsoft operating system is scheduled to be released, October 2009.

    Windows 7 system requirements.
    If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here’s what it takes:
    •1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
    •1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
    •16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
    •DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

    For more information see:
    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/home?os=nonwin7

    Another site for windows 7 FAQ is:
    http://www.winsupersite.com/win7/faq.asp

  18. Steve Adkins Says:

    Found this article this morning that I thought was very fitting for this discussion: “Microsoft: Apple wanted ‘Laptop Hunters’ ads pulled”
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10288022-37.html?tag=newsEditorsPicksArea.0

  19. Pete Canavan Says:

    If anyone is interested in learning computer applications online there is a site called lynda.com which has hundreds of online training videos.
    The cost is $25.00 per month and there is no contract. You can go month to month.

    There is a course for windows 7 there.

    You can check it out and look at the courses at http://www.lynda.com

  20. Pc man Says:

    This difference between Mac and Pc article contains some useful information. Just adding some value to the conversation.

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