Monday, January 4, 2010

Two Points Each, Mac and PC

This is part of a series of reprints from my classes. Once the class is over, I will lose these if I don't save them elsewhere. I've decided to post them here as they may be of some interest. This is from my Introduction to Information Systems class, which I was too lazy to test out of.

Advantages of a Mac:
  1. Compatibility. While the general thinking is that Windows machines have the most software and the world works on Windows, so you can do anything in it, I believe this is a short sighted non-technical viewpoint. The reality is that Microsoft makes very little attempt to support standard formats, instead they spend time developing their own formats which then become de facto standards. Despite Microsoft’s practice of stunting compatibility using patents and copyright claims, Mac owners enjoy the ability to open most file formats without the need for additional software. Windows users have to install third party applications to open standard formats such as PDF.

  2. “It just works.” When Mac users say this they aren’t talking about the lack of viruses and other malicious programs. They’re talking about usability, compatibility, and stability. Due largely to Apple’s software and hardware philosophies, Mac owners enjoy a relatively hassle free experience. The interface is highly consistent and few developers of software for Macs stray from the conventions. Apple’s control of the hardware means few driver issues ever arise. Their design standards for the hardware add another element of usability. Once you learn to use OS X you rarely have to think about it, it just works.

Advantages of a PC:
  1. Ubiquity. Microsoft was able to grab the business market. This is the true key to their success, without the exposure and indoctrination of millions via the workplace the home computer revolution of the 90’s would not have been possible. Now that everyone knows how to use Windows they find themselves confused by the design differences between the PC and the Mac, which can make short stints on a Mac frustrating. Also, since the market share is so skewed in favor of Windows the impetus is on users of other operating systems to make sure that Windows users can interact with their content. This is a distinct advantage for Microsoft and to some extent the users of its OS. While Microsoft is free to create file formats like WMA with limited implementations outside of Windows, other vendors are not afforded such a luxury, and the users don’t have to worry about receiving a deliverable in a format they can’t open.

  2. Availability. Windows is also highly available, and so are the devices on which it runs. You can get a Windows PC easily and cheaply. The lack of vendor lock-in for hardware means that manufacturers are able to race to the bottom on price. This means that Windows PCs are available to a wider audience and they are infinitely configurable.

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