It’s a debate that has been raging for decades. Of the two major computing options available, Windows PCs and Apple’s Macintosh line, which is superior? For home users, it’s a question that usually comes down to personal preference and past experience, and, if they aren’t satisfied with their choice, switching for their next system isn’t typically that challenging.
For SMBs, choosing between PC and Mac is a more complicated issue. They need a platform that fits their operational needs, will slot into their network seamlessly, and that their employees can be their most productive on. Not to mention, it has to make financial sense given their varying upfront costs and maintenance needs. Plus, switching costs are high, so they want to get it right the first time.
Some organizations opt for a hybrid ecosystem, with a blend of Macs and PCs. Employees appreciate the autonomy of choosing the type of computer they work on, but it will add a fair amount of complications for the IT department. That’s why a majority of SMBs, which prize highly efficient and easily managed technology solutions, decide to go one way or the other.
But which is more popular overall? In that race, PC is the clear leader. According to analytics firm Net Applications, as of 2020, 86.9% of global computers use Windows. Its biggest competitor, macOS, by comparison, only makes up 9.8% of the global OS market. Microsoft has been particularly aggressive in driving adoption of the latest version of their operating system. By their count, more than 900 million active devices are running Windows 10.
So what exactly are the major differences between Mac and PC? The biggest one is the operating system (OS) itself. PCs usually run Microsoft’s Windows and Macs run Apple’s macOS. While both are full-featured and highly capable, they are different visually, and the user interface (UI) design also diverges sharply in several areas. Menus don’t work the same way, keyboard shortcuts vary, and the file systems retrieve documents differently.
There are many other differences. Some are subtle or superficial, but others have a direct impact on the bottom line and operations of a small or medium-sized business.
Externally, PCs and Macs look different. Apple, which controls both the hardware and the OS of its computers has a fairly standardized and very luxurious appearance. They use high quality materials like brushed aluminum, elegantly designed hinges, and minimalist design throughout their computer product lines.
PCs are much more varied. Higher end brands like Dell, HP, and Microsoft’s own Surface line offer slick, beautifully designed PC laptops and desktops, but lower cost plastic models are more common, and PC design schemes run the gamut from Apple-esque simplicity to glowing, LED-studded, maximalist beasts. Companies that desire a unified and refined appearance often choose Mac. Those that are less concerned with appearances, or that want something with more character, often choose PC.
Among the creative fields, Mac is a veritable industry standard. Design firms, marketers, content producers, and artists have a long history of using Apple computers. Adobe Photoshop, the most popular graphic design software in history, was first released on a Mac over 30 years ago, and many designers are simply accustomed to that operating system as a result.
As for business software, there was a time when tasks like database management, word processing, programming, and the like were seen as strictly in the PC domain. That reputation has changed, though, over the years. Today, pretty much every major suite of productivity and business tools, including Microsoft Office, is available on both platforms. However, many businesses run custom-built, legacy software that is specific to their operation or industry. The vast majority of those programs are PC only.
For that reason and others, the consensus in the IT community is that PC is and will remain the primary operating system that most businesses should invest in. Issues related to compatibility, uniformity, and legacy software have all helped ingrain it into common business IT infrastructure arrangements.
When you buy a PC laptop, it’s important to investigate the quality of its components. In cheaper models, trackpads might not scroll smoothly, the display can be dim or unable to accurately reproduce colors, and the keyboard can be mushy and unresponsive. With Apple this is rarely a problem (minus an issue with MacBook keyboards that was recently resolved). It isn’t to say that PCs aren’t available with equally high quality components, just that the onus is on the purchaser to make sure ahead of time.
The same caveat applies to ports. Modern PCs are available with legacy ports like VGA, USB-A, and HDMI. Apple is quicker than most to deprecate older standards in its products. Many of its latest computers only come with a single port type, a ThunderBolt 3 USB-C that is used for power, external displays, and connected devices. It’s an incredibly powerful, high-speed port, and there are any number of dongles and adapters for connecting older equipment to it, but, for some businesses, that lack of options is a drawback.
The upfront costs for going Mac are almost certainly going to be higher than PC. Similarly specced systems (with equivalent CPUs, RAM, displays, etc.) cost more from Apple than PC brands. Apple doesn’t even offer a very low cost laptop option. Their cheapest model, the MacBook Air, starts at $999.
By contrast, PC laptops with enough horsepower to perform basic business functions (like Microsoft Office) can be had for half that price. What’s more, Apple’s parts are typically more expensive and proprietary. If you need a replacement power cord, dongle, or expansion card, expect to pay more if it has an Apple logo on it.
A major cost issue question often raised, however, is: “Why shouldn’t my business just buy a cheap PC from a retail outlet?” A $500 laptop from Best Buy might look a lot like a $1,200 business-class machine, but there is a world of difference under the hood. The components are higher quality, longer lasting, and have far more robust security features. A true business machine also won’t come loaded with bloatware that can cause software issues.
That $500 computer looks enticing, but almost always ends up needing replacing in just a year’s time.
Maintenance and Security
Apple’s products, because of the company’s reputation for using higher quality internal components, more rigorous product design and testing, and a lower perceived threat for hacking and viruses, are considered to be cheaper to maintain than PCs.
That said, finding compatible parts for PCs is almost always cheaper and easier than for Macs. And, in the last few years, Apple has been making it more and more difficult to service their equipment. Ram modules are being soldered directly to the motherboard, proprietary screws hold cases shut, and some parts are physically glued in place. Tech experts can find ways around these measures, but it’s something to be considered in the buying process.
Ease of Use
One of the most commonly cited reasons for choosing Mac is that they “just work.” Apple’s legendary co-founder Steve Jobs was notoriously picky about his machines. He expected his engineers to build products that were intuitive to use right out of the box. Windows systems will likely require more customization and setup time.
This one is pretty cut and dry. If you go Mac, your only option is Apple. Even for the internal components and external peripherals (mice, keyboards, monitors, etc.), the options are less plentiful. The PC ecosystem is incredibly open and has broad compatibility. Apple locks down Macs to a greater degree, so the variety and parts or accessories that work well with their products is far more limiting.
PCs also simply come in more form factors than Macs. There are PCs with 360-degree hinges and touchscreens that convert into tablets, laptops with every screen size imaginable, giant desktop towers, and ultra-low-power mobile devices. The Apple lineup is extensive, but not nearly as diverse.
Apple positions itself to be exclusive, but Microsoft aims to be entrenched in an entire organization with products that fill as many needs as they can, and they do it in a way that meshes together smoothly.
Microsoft has made a major push to lead in accessible design. Windows 10 has a number of affordances that help users with impairments, such as voice input, screen magnification tools, text narration, Braille support, sticky and slow key entry — even the ability to control the cursor by moving your eyes. Apple, by contrast, has fewer accessibility features.
Which is Right For Your Business?
Ultimately, it’s a question of which fits into your current operation best and which will serve your anticipated future needs without breaking the bank, but they are both solid options and there is a strong case to be made for each.
Need help figuring out whether your SMB would be better served by going Mac or PC for its next tech overhaul? Contact the IT pros at D2.