The debate between Mac and PC has been waged between camps since the 1980s, and it doesn’t look like it will be settled any time soon. I refer to the debate as being “Mac vs. PC” because that’s how Apple positioned the argument during its multi-year advertising campaign featuring John Hodgkins as the PC, and Justin Long as the Mac. Over the years, great points have been made by people on both sides of the fence. The problem with these comparisons is that they often confuse hardware with software. The Mac itself is a bundle of hardware components made by Apple and other third-party manufacturers that build each part to spec for the platform. This hardware is operated by a proprietary operating system that is designed to work only on Apple machines.
Underneath the aluminum unibody and glass screens is a computer that works almost exactly like any other PC on the market today. Each computer has a motherboard, power supply, RAM, CPU, and other common components. Is the Mac better than a PC in terms of hardware? Aside from the expensive shell, there isn’t a significant difference at all.
The software is where the real battle lies. Windows and OS X have been compared to one another time and time again. The differences between the two are obvious, but not as significant as you might imagine. Both operating systems share a lot of common features that allow you to get the same job done on either platform. In fact, it’s actually kind of hard not to find a way to accomplish pretty much anything you need to do throughout the day on either OS X or Windows.
But, there are quite a few reasons to choose Windows as your primary operating system over OS X. Here are six of them:
One of the defining features of OS X is its closed hardware environment. This means that your hardware selection is limited to the parts that Apple has tested and approved. It also means that customizing and purchasing a Mac means being restricted in performance by the hardware Apple has made available to users during yearly product updates.
Right now, you can’t get USB 3.0 on a Mac. At least, you can’t do so without some pricey third-party adapters that connect to the Thunderbolt port. Even then, you may be sacrificing performance as the device has one more gadget to pass through before it interfaces with the OS.
In addition, a Windows PC is generally very modular. You can upgrade just about any component of a PC fairly easily. If you don’t like the video card, you have a choice of virtually any other card on the market as long as it is compatible with the bus on your motherboard. The same goes for the CPU, RAM, power supply, motherboard, hard drives, and anything else you can put on or take off. Mac OS X allows for customizability and upgrades as well, though drivers are limited to the manufacturers and specific products that are approved for use in Apple systems.
If you want the latest and greatest video card on your Mac, you’re out of luck. Third-party video cards might work if you toss them on a Mac Pro, but the drivers just aren’t available. Let’s not even talk about Blu-ray.
Windows is a much more open environment for developers. Because of this, the desktop can be pretty heavily modified to the user’s liking. While you can get apps that alter the look and feel of OS X, the development of these apps has largely been done in a Windows environment as that’s where most of the potential customers are.
WindowBlinds was one of my favorite desktop customization programs for Windows. It does a great job of customizing your Windows experience to meet your personal tastes.
Windows has been hacked and tweaked in every way possible. If you have Windows running on it, a clever software engineer has found some way to make your PC run faster, look better, or both.
Open source projects are also generally more Windows friendly than they are with OS X. OS X has the advantage of being UNIX based, but the code has been changed so much that the developer has to either create a universal binary or develop a version specifically for OS X. Windows is where most of the users are, so open source developers tend to lean towards that as their preferred operating platform.
Yes, you can play games on a Mac. This isn’t a comparison of Mac and PC, though. The Windows operating system is still a favorite among PC gaming companies. Games made available for the Mac are actually relatively few and far between. Unless you really want to play Portal or a Call of Duty game from five years ago, you’re better off sticking with Windows as your operating system of choice.
One significant example of this is the Steam library of games. If you compare the OS X catalog to its Windows selection, the choice is clear. Windows has more modern games being made for it than OS X.
Larger Selection of Available Software
Gaming aside, a lot of software is still being developed just for Windows. Rhapsody has a great desktop client that is currently Windows only. In addition, some video editing software, including Sony Vegas, isn’t made for OS X. Developers are building software on a budget that requires them to target the biggest customer pool with as little effort as possible.
This means that developers ultimately decide to go with Windows over OS X in many cases. Business software is one of the biggest cases of this single-platform environment due in part to the overwhelming adoption of Windows over OS X in corporate environments.
Bottom line: While matter of opinion will vary on which operating system is compatible with the best software, Windows has more software choices.
While it might seem tempting to think about your Mac as an investment, the fact is that far too many people try to resell their Mac for much more than it’s actually worth. The very point that so many online sales and Craigslist ads are posted for near-retail prices leads a lot of people to believe that the actual value of a three-year-old machine is much higher than you can really get. Of course, paying retail also means that you’re handing over a premium to Apple for what basically amounts to a case made out of higher quality
On the other side, finding a good deal on a Windows-based systems is pretty easy. Windows machines are all over the place, especially since the only company legitimately producing Macs is Apple. That means just about any computer you buy from Acer, HP, Dell, or Lenovo is going to be a Windows machine. In fact, unless it’s one of the few that come complete with Linux or are shipped without any operating system at all, it’s likely running a version of Windows.
You can find a fairly capable PC for a few hundred dollars brand new. If you look hard enough, you can grab a new i5 powered PC with 8 GB of RAM and a powerful graphics card for around $600. The value of a Mac is in the operating system and the fancy engineering the system components are attached to. Either way, this is another reason that Windows might be better than OS X for the budget consumer.
Almost Everyone Knows How to Use It
While Windows has a bad reputation for being complex when compared to OS X, just about everyone who uses a PC at home or at work knows how to use it. Kids today in school are taught on Windows-based PCs. This is due, in part, to the large library of educational software that’s only available on Windows. In addition, educators are tasked with preparing their students for the workforce. That means being knowledgeable with the most commonly used platform. Yes, you guessed it: Windows.
Over the past 15 years, Microsoft Windows hasn’t changed very much. Windows 95 introduced the start menu and desktop, and various features have only changed so much since then. Windows 98, 2000, NT, and even XP aren’t a shocking change from version to version. If you know how to use one, each one that comes after it should be intuitive (if not significantly easier).
That said, Mac OS X is pretty straightforward to a Windows user. The learning curve is fairly small, and most users pick up the nuances fairly quickly.
Networking between Macs and PCs is still a hassle. Despite being notably easier thanks to software solutions such as Bonjour, file sharing and other apparently simple tasks can be a tricky art for most home users. Windows is widely used in the corporate environment for this reason. While networking can still be somewhat complex, Microsoft has made great strides to simplify networking and make it easier for PCs to communicate.
With Windows 7, the networking process is practically seamless. Wireless networking, which was once a weak point of Windows, has greatly improved. That’s not to say it’s perfect.
Another thing to consider is that the Windows .NET platform is great for developers who want to create useful applications for Windows without a lot of hassle. Preferred over Java for desktop programs by many developers, .NET has gained in popularity among enthusiasts and students alike. If you know how to program on .NET, you can create a lot of useful applications fairly quickly. In fact, business software is largely based in the .NET environment.
This article is part of a multi-post series comparing the differences between OS X, Linux, and Windows. For six reasons OS X is better than Windows, read this.