Macintosh vs. Windows PCs in Schools


What's all the Hype?

Some countries officially have adopted 2 official languages. Within these countries, the languages you speak can often times determine the scope of your rights and responsibilities, and in some cases, determine your status.

In bilingual cultures, monolingual speakers have a definite disadvantage. More and more, we are being confronted with the challenge of bilingual capabilities in a world that has grown far beyond our back yards. Bilingual speakers have an edge and are much better equipped to meet the demands and challenges of any given culture.

It is no different in the digital world and the demand for technology literacy (as yet another language) has grown stronger since the mid-80s. The corporate world has undoubtedly risen to the challenge of technological literacy, but the education world continues to struggle. The dilemna faced within the world of education is relative to the computer platform, the architecture of the hardware, and the associated software with a computer. The struggle centers on decisions relative to using either Apple Computer's Macintosh or the Personal Computer (PC).

The technology boom that we are experiencing now all started in the early 80's when the two separate platforms were born. At first, both platforms seemed to be neck and neck, but that all changed when Apple's team began to design a visual operating system which was adapted from a concept of the Xerox Corporation. Apple's new operating system allowed 'ordinary' people to point and click through their computer. You no longer needed a genius I.Q. to operate a computer. Due to the Mac's ease of use, the public was responding with enthusiaism and Apple seemed to be moving at light speed ahead of their competition.

Early on, IBM Personal Computers were run by a text-based operating system called Disk Operating System (DOS). Tech-oriented people were the only ones who really appreciated DOS. As a result, IBM began to lose market share. Microsoft, the same small firm contracted to DOS for IBM, was contracted by Apple to help them increase their products usefulness. During this time, Microsoft's staff learned the need for simplyfying the technology behind graphical operating systems. Microsoft shook the world when they released Windows, a graphical operating system that ran on IBM Personal Computers.

While the playing field leveled out a little, due to Microsoft Windows, the pendulum then began to swing in the PC's direction (Note: we did not mention IBM). IBM made one simple mistake, they did not patent the technological architecture behind the PC. This seemingly irrelevant move would eventually be the direct cause of Apple's lose of market share. Since IBM did not hold a patent, any company was free to come in and blatantly copy IBM's architecture. That's just what happened! Thousands upon thousands of companies worldwide began to make their own unique spin on the PC, using IBM's architecture. This led to a great deal of competition.

Competition in business leads to innovation and price drops. Corporate America began to take note and it was evident that by the mid-90's, PC's had won the battle. The deciding factors seemed to revolve around price and compatibility. PC's were much cheaper and seemed to be able to do the same thing as more sophisticated computer systems.

While most corporations are seemingly PC, schools seem to be broken on the issue. Most districts do not understand the issues at hand. We'll try to bring you up to speed on where we are and where we are going.

What No One Tells You About PCs and Macs

1. Some school districts have become so heavily invested in Apple Products or IBM products that it's financially impossible for them to change platforms.

2. Apple's first graphical interface was a rip off from Xerox.

3. Microsoft's first graphical interface was a rip off from Apple.

4. Networking on Mac's is a much easier task to learn and train staff for than networking with PCs.

5. Pricing is no longer an issue between Macs and PCs. When purchased in bulk the costs are relatively similar.

6. Getting a virus on a Mac is almost unheard of! Very few viruses target the Mac platform, but just about every virus targets the Windows OS.

7. Worldwide, for every 100 people ready to provide you with technical support on PC's, there are 3 or 4 people to help you with Mac's. This seems to only affect home users, business / institutions with capable technicians run into very few problems with the Mac OS. As one of our users recently points out, "Yes technical support is not as readily available, but for every 100 problems that are realized with the Windows OS, only 3 or 4 will arise on the Mac OS!"

8. The Mac OS is made specifically for hardware it is running on. Most systems running the Windows OS have parts made by 30-40 different manufacturers. We took a recent survey of twelve computer labs (6 Mac, 6 PC). On the average, the entire number of hardware manufacturers on the Mac networks was 3.2. On the PC networks, an average of 39.2 different vendors.

9. Many manufactures are losing money by making Mac applications. The questions arise, "Will developers stop making software for the Mac?"

10. Web Pages appear differently on Mac's and PC's with respect to colors and fonts.

11. While PC dominates sales worldwide, "Apple... dominates the creative markets 3 to 1." (Trendmatch, 1999 Creative Atlas Guide)

12. Durability-wise Apple products are much more durable. This is simply due to the fact that they cater to the K-12 market. Top PC manufactures have recognized this and are releasing more durable products as well.

13. The real issue between Mac and PC is not which is better. The technology industry is reaching a usability plateau. Both platforms are just as capable. For schools the real issue is the future, what will children use in the field. In the end it comes down to personal choice.

What's Good About Macs?

1. No one really writes viruses for Mac's anymore. There's hardly a need for a virus scan.

2. Apple holds more than twice as many computer patents as Microsoft.

3. Mac's are easier to assemble. Usually, you just have to plug the power cord and modem line into the proper outlet.

4. As a whole, Mac networks are more stable and require much less maintenance than PC networks.

5. The average life expectancy of Mac's are usually one to two years longer than PC's.

6. All Mac networks can be turned on or shut down by software. Educators who have worked in a computer lab will agree that if you don't have to shut each individual computer off by hand, you're happier!

7. Most Mac's come with a video capture card that enable you to make movies.

8. Mac's all have female ports. Big deal, you say! Male ports are easy to break! In fact, 1200 male ports break to one female port. If you break your male prong, it's just a trip to the store and $15.00 for a new prong as compared to a 2 hour phone call (tech support) and $1500 for a new motherboard.

9. Within the industry Apple holds a great deal of ethos when it comes to releasing a well tested product for public use. When Windows NT 4.0 was first released, even Microsoft admitted that it had more than 10,000 reported bugs. (Microsoft Website) Apple's comparable product, at the time, reported 17 reported bugs in total.

10. The Mac OS allows you to use odd characters (i.e. ?, /, ") in file names. It's always nice to have that ability.

What's Bad About Macs?

1. Less technical support is provided. This will not affect you much in a school setting, if you have a service contract.

2. There's less available software; less free software is available.

3. Some software developers anticipate that they will stop making Mac compatible versions of their software.This is really because Mac software sales are low.

4. On a Mac, the user is unable to eject the disk while it is in use. However, this is a safeguard that Apple built in to stop people from accidentally losing data.

5. Mac mice only have one button, the opertaing system makes up for this by allowing you to hold down the single button for a pop up menu.

6. The Mac operating system does not come with a disk defragamenting program. Defragmentation programs speed up your computer by reorganizing files. In the case of Mac's, there is an extra cost for this feature.

7. Parts, in general, for Mac's are hard to find and can be costly.

What's Good About PCs?

1. PC's are viewed as the industry standard in computing. So if you're not PC compatible, you will not have the edge in the business world. This is what 99% of our students will be using when they graduate.

2. There is a wide array of technical support available. Back to our argument about the need for this technical support, you get more because you will need more.

3. There seems to be a limitless supply of free software (shareware/freeware). 75% of all freeware is PC only.

4. Memory allocation is much better on PC's. As a result, there are less crashes from memory problems.

5. PC's do not hold your Floppies, CD-ROM's, DVD's, or Zip disks hostage. You can take them out at any time.

6. PCs allow up to 255 characters when naming your files.

7. You have a 3-button mouse and extensive hot keys. The three button mouse is critical because the right mouse button allows you it activate most common tasks; thus, it saves you a lot of time. As of recent, many third-party manufacturers make multi-button mice for Macs as well.

What's Bad About PCs?

1. PC's are much harder to network and PC networks are very unstable at times.

2. Viruses and computer hacks of any nature are almost always geared towards PC's.

3. Most PC's are assembled with parts from many different companies. This makes it very difficult to find software drivers and sometimes support for specfic hardware. A very big problem with PC's!

The Bottom Line

It's a given that educators want to be able to learn from each other, exchange data, swap programs, and often times, solve each other's problems. It is up to you to decide which system fits your needs. You also need to feel comfortable with the system you are using so that you can transfer that comfort to your students. In the end, it's your personal choice!

This tutorial represents a point of view expressed by the writer and does not necessarily represent the beliefs of Teachnology, Inc.