Apple vs. PC – Does it Matter?

When I first started teaching, back in the dark ages before the dinosaurs, 13 years ago – we in the publishing business were the weirdos.  Why?  Because most of us used Macs and shunned Wintel (Windows/Intel) boxes.

There were a lot of good reasons for this too.  This was the days of Windows 95 and Aldus Pagemaker (not Adobe).  Aldus did make Pagemaker for Windows, but it was buggy – as was Windows 95.   Computers were also hugely expensive back then.  We bought a $3000 machine that is less powerful than the cheapest iPod today.  But basically Apple had a better platform for publishing and was ahead of the game with graphics and user interface.  Their fonts were smoother too and 95% of the time – it just worked.

But there were problems too.  Macs were more expensive and they didn’t work with industry standard connectors that most scanners, printers, etc. had.  And software was harder to find.

And then Apple hit a rough patch in the late ’90s.  Their machines were overpriced and buggy.  In fact, they were junk.  Tons of schools began to switch to PCs – mainly for price.  PCs were junk too, but they were cheap.  And Windows 98 was actually fairly stable.

Adobe bought out Aldus and they had Pagemaker and Photoshop for both Mac and PCs.  Things were looking bad for Macs.  And at my school, if it had not been for the fact that the IT department didn’t want to replace all 10 of my computers in the lab at once – we would have switched to PC too.  But back then, Mac and PC didn’t work together well.  And I told the IT dept. that we wouldn’t use a mixed lab.

So, we stuck with Macs.

I’m glad we did.  Because the iMac, iMovie and iPod have made all the difference.

The iMac saved Apple.  It was cool again.  It had OSX – a rock solid Unix based operating system.  And each new version (through 10.4.11) has been more solid than the last.  iMovie allowed us to build a broadcast program on the cheap, which is the only way most schools can do anything.  And the iPod has made Apple cool yet again.  We are the only Mac lab in the building – so that makes us the cool kids.

A lot of people wonder if Apple is in trouble because it is no longer the “underdog,” but only people over 30 think that way.  The under 30 crowd think of Apple as a cool company that built the iPod.  They listen to music and watch video on their iPods.  Go to almost anywhere kids 16-25 hang out with their laptops and you will see nearly as many or more white apple logos as you will HP or Dell logos put together.

Today Apple computers can use almost any standard add on hardware such as cameras, scanners, printers, etc. if they use a USB or Firewire connector – and usually without having to download any drivers or software.   Plug in digital camera or thumb drive and It Just Works!   Just stay away from Sony’s stuff – because they hate Macs.  They don’t work too well with PCs either.

“It Just Works” should be on every Apple box right next to the logo.  And now with Intel chips, there are at least three different ways to run Windows on a Mac too.   At full speed, natively, without emulation.

When someone can’t get something to work at my school, they almost always end up in my classroom.  I can’t always get it to work, but usually it is just a matter of plug and play.

I’ll stick with Macs.

Mr. C


  1. As a Mac user since ’89, I don’t use Macs to be “outlaw” or countercultural, or even because they are stylish. I use them because they work.

    I am also fluent with Win XP. It “kind of” works. I can “usually” get it to do what I want. But it is always a reluctant servant.

  2. oh yeah…

  3. “Just stay away from Sony’s stuff – because they hate Macs. They don’t work too well with PCs either.”

    It is not that they hate Macs, but are their competition. Mac stated that they want to be the new Sony when it comes to gadgets, and they are doing a good job. Also, they sell Samsung (Sony’s big competition) in the Mac stores, etc.

    Therefore, Mac doesn’t make slots for Sony’s cards. Other than this (which is solved by buying an $8 USB adapter), there really isn’t much of a problem.

  4. Right on! Ironic story: In 1993 or 1994, The Carroll County Times was converting to pagination. The company was determined to use PCs, I imagine for cost reasons. But Quark Xpress was available only for Macs. We had to delay pagination a few months waiting for Quark to produce a Windows version.
    I bought an iMac when they first came out, about 2001, to do a newsletter for a private organization. Those i-macs had OS 9.something. I knew immediately it was a superior product.
    At the moment I’m using a Dell with Windows Vista, not by my choice. Soon as possible in the new year, I’m buying a mac with OS 10.5. — Bernie Hayden

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  6. I don’t think it matters much anymore. In fact, as I’ve said elsewhere before, I don’t think Apple thinks much of the DTP crowd anymore. These days, with pre-press houses and colour seps running both Mac and Windows you no longer have to worry about your files getting messed up when you work on Windows machines. And, depending on the workflow of your studio, the two Windows XP boxes you can get for the price of a single iMac can get you further, especially during a deadline.

    Oh yes indeed, in a studio environment Macs do crash. Anyone who says they don’t haven’t really used their machine much beyond the light stuff.

  7. Ruhayat – I don’t worry about my yearbook publisher messing up my pages, but it is really about ease of use. I use an XP box every day to access our school’s internal network that does not have a Mac client and to do FTP to our district network – because they won’t support Macs inside their firewall. It is not that I can’t use a Windows box – I just don’t like to. Windows does most everything in a clunky way. Plus they are not as cheap as people think when you need the specs required to run Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, and GoLive correctly all on one box. Most Macs – even minis do that with only a small RAM upgrade. Macs also just work without complex installs and drivers and tweaks to get cameras (dv) and scanners and printers to work.

    I’m not saying Macs never have problems or never lock up. But usually under OSX the application locks, not the whole system.

  8. Teachj, I agree with everything you’ve said about the Mac vs. PC debate. We have both platforms in our office. The writers and analysts work on PCs; the 4 designers work on Macs. There was an idea about having the designers move to PCs, which was met with a lot of disapproval from the designers. Having used the PCs for different chores, we know that the ease of doing a simple task on the Mac usually triples in number of steps on the PC. Visual people are more comfortable working with symbols and icons. The Windows platform doesn’t compete with OSX in terms of ease of use…..sorry, PC people.
    I talked with an IT prepress person at a large printing company to find out if the publishing industry still preferred the Mac over PC files. They still do. This particular company has one PC station (shows us how popular PCs are used by graphic designers). According to this prepress person, PC files are notorious for font and transparency problems (watch those drop shadows). If you’re a client, you’d better read your proof from top to bottom to catch those irritating little fonts that decide they want to do their own thing. If you don’t and you sign off on your proof, your $10K job may end up with some embarrassing typos. Typically, at the proofing stage, you shouldn’t have to read the whole thing again… you should be looking at color, photo quality and page alignment. Font issues means that text can move, and there goes your design. After a while, the printers know which clients provide PC files and will build in additional costs for the extra trouble they’ll run into trying to get the file to print correctly. Why put yourself through all of that….just do it on a Mac.

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