01.Mac or PC?
Please note: this information was current as of October 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Apple Computer fans are known worldwide as "Mac Evangelists" for their almost fanatical devotion to the brand, but is it just hype or should you really consider a Mac as your next computer?
Apple is known for stylish, easy to use computers and its sophisticated UNIX-based operating system, OS X (pronounced "O S 10"). Apple's success also owes much to the popularity of its iPod portable music players, iTunes software and online store and, most recently, the iPhone - released in the US in late June and due here in 2008.
The Mac factor
But why should you buy a Mac? The answers start with "S":
Stability - OS X is known for its looks, stability and multitasking multi-user capabilities.
Security - OS X is relatively free of viruses and other malware, although even Apple doesn't claim immunity.
Simplicity and style - Apple products are renowned for stylish design and ease of use.
That's not to say that Windows, particularly Vista, doesn't have these things too, though opinions on this can differ greatly. But Macs also have high 'satisfaction' - they rated highest for performance and customer loyalty in our last two reliability surveys.
Macs come with all the hardware and software you're likely to need for most computing tasks "out of the box". You may pay a bit more, but many of the optional extras on other brands - FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, wireless networking (Wi-Fi), advanced video and sound, and multiple monitor support - are automatically included in Mac computers.
OS X comes in just one full version, bundled with many software applications including:
- Web browsing (Safari)
- Email (Mail)
- Calendar (iCal)
- Instant messaging (iChat)
- Image and PDF viewing (Preview)
- Movie viewing (DVD Player)
- Mini programs (Widgets).
And all consumer Macs come with the iLife suite of digital lifestyle programs:
- iPhoto - digital photo management
- iMovie HD - video editing
- iDVD - DVD movie creation
- Garageband - music composition
- iWeb - website building.
Macs are due for a major system update, in late October 2007, from the current Tiger version to OS X 10.5 - codenamed Leopard.
This will introduce changes to its look, along with built-in backup technology called Time Machine, multiple virtual desktops, comprehensive parental controls and the ability to let you install Windows XP (with Service Pack 2) or Vista.
Macs do Windows too
Windows users make up the largest slice of the personal computer market. The Mac's OS X is a different operating system to Windows. But changes to Mac hardware in 2006 paved the way for users to run Windows on the Mac without using special sofware. Apple's free Boot Camp software lets users of Intel-based Macs run Windows XP or Vista, then reboot to switch back to OS X.
A commercial program called Parallels Desktop for Mac even enables you to run Windows and even Linux alongside OS X without rebooting or sacrificing speed.
When it's time to buy a new PC, should you go with Windows Vista, or switch to a Mac? Both systems are significantly different to Windows XP and both have a learning curve and cost attached, as you may also need to upgrade old peripherals such as printer, scanner and so on. But both offer greater stability, security, features and ease of use.
If you opt for a Mac running OS X only, you may have to buy Mac versions of additional software you want, such as Microsoft Office for Mac. Or you can opt to run the free OpenOffice suite from www.openoffice.org or NeoOffice - a full-featured set of office applications for Mac OS X, based on the OpenOffice.org office suite, available at www.neooffice.org. Both suites includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing programs).
If you want to run Windows as well, you'll have to buy it separately. But at least if you want to go back to Windows you don't have to buy another computer.