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…
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?
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.
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.
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!