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What Should You Buy? A Mac or PC?

Part 2 of a three-part article.
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What's the difference between a PC and a Mac? First, let's throw some confusion into the mix: A Mac is technically a PC, a personal computer. But people who own a Mac will never call it a PC. And people who have only used a PC most likely would never own a Mac. That's how strong some people feel about the situation.

Still, for a lot of people, the difference between a Mac and a PC isn't that big a deal. Or is it that they just don't know what a big deal it really is?

I was once walking around a large mall with the director of advertising for a large home improvement department store chain. This person had also been the advertising manager for a fast-food chain and had worked in an advertising agency too. In that world (marketing, advertising, creative design) 90% of the work was done on Mac computers.

As we passed by an Apple store, newly opened, she stunned me with this question: "What is the difference between a Mac and PC?" I was stunned by the question. Why? Because she'd managed, somehow, to work in marketing without ever knowing what the difference was between a Mac—the unofficial computer of the creative world—and a PC, which is what the account people at the agency most likely used.

Where did she go wrong?

The truth. Computer stuff confuses most people.

Later, I realized that she was simply in that group of people who never really learned (or had to learn) what the difference was between the two. And there are still a lot of people who aren't truly clear about the difference.

You might be one of them. So, I think one place to start is to describe what a Mac is, and what makes it unique.

What's up, Mac?

Let's look at some facts about the Mac, because there's an aura about Mac computers that has been there from the beginning. You could almost say it's wired right into each one:

  • The word "Mac" is short for Macintosh, which is short for Macintosh computer. Nobody calls it a Macintosh computer anymore. It's a Mac.
  • Macs are made by Apple Computer. No other computer company makes a Mac or anything really like it.
  • The Mac was the brainchild of the late and famous Steve Jobs (1954—2012). He didn't invent it, but he was the driving force behind the Macintosh. The Mac wasn't even Apple's first or second computer product!
  • The first Mac was introduced in 1984 through a commercial that played during the Super Bowl. It ran only one time...and it's considered by many to be the greatest commercial of all time.
  • Today, a Mac computer for your desk is called an iMac. A Mac laptop is called a MacBook.
  • Macs are very simple to use. The term "plug and play"—which means that it's so easy to use, all you need to do is plug it in—practically started with Macs.
  • You can buy a Mac at retail stores and at some official resellers such as Best Buy, Target, and some office supply stores.

In a way, instead of saying there are Macs and PCs, you could simply say that there are Macs and non-Macs.

What's a PC?

All other personal computers that are NOT Macs are called PCs, and it doesn't matter if it's a laptop or a desktop. Here are the most popular brands of PCs.

  • Sony
  • Toshiba
  • Dell
  • HP (Hewlett Packard)
  • Acer

PCs dominate the computer market. In fact, before Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company was almost dead. Even today, as strong as Apple is, Macs only account for a fraction of computers sold.

PCs don't use the internal software that Macs use, which is called Mac OS, for "operating system." In fact, one of the defining features of all PCs is that they use the most famous operating system ever created and that which still dominates the market...the one that made Bill Gates of Microsoft a very rich man.

They use Windows.

Windows was introduced in 1989 and it was Microsoft's version of a Mac-like operating system. The two companies fought legal battles for years over the issue. The latest Windows operation system is Windows 8.0. (By the way, Windows replaced the first PC operating system called "DOS," which was the kind of technology that Steve Jobs hated.) DOS stood for "disk operation system." How innovative.

That's something you should remember. The heart of a Mac is the Mac OS, in addition to all the sleek curves and stylistic innovations. The two entities, Mac OS and Mac hardware, are what define a Mac.

But check this out: A lot of the application software that Macs use—spreadsheets, word documents, slide presentations—are created by...Microsoft. Over the years, the two machines have closed the gap, somewhat.

In the next installment, we'll look at Macs and PCs in a head-to-head comparison on several important categories, such as price and security.

>> CONTINUE TO PART 3 >>