I cringe every time I hear that a parent has once again succumbed to their child’s wishes for a new computer and has gone and gotten them a new Macbook or even a iMac. It’s not that Apple makes a bad computer, or that they don’t have uses, but for students they just aren’t a good thing for so many reasons. I know quite a few kids who are either in college or have just graduated, and what I hear most often from them is that the tech kids know better than to get a Mac – they run Windows or Linux on PC’s because it is a better value, there is a greater choice and freedom of softare and they aren’t tied to overly expensive and limited hardware and software. Also the majority of kids who run PC’s (usually 60% or more at most colleges) think that the kids who tout their Apple’s are just what they call posers.
It isn’t that my opinion is based upon a dislike for Apple (although I will admit I am not a big fan of the company in general), it is more because of the numbers. Apple makes up at the most 8% of the computers being used, and the percentage for businesses is much smaller. This means that all the time spent learning and using their Macs in school is wasted when it comes time to enter the real world – go ahead and look at the majority of company requirements for most kinds of mid to upper level jobs today; very few mention anything about having experience with a Mac, whereas most will expect at least a comfortable skillset with PC’s. The kids who spend their school years using Macs will be at a big disadvantage when it comes time to enter the ever competetive job market.
The majority of business software runs on Windows or Linux, and in fact there are quite a few corporations which dissallow Macs to even hook into their networks. Despite many erroneous claims, Macs are in no way more secure, in fact they are very unsecure and easily exploitable (there are just less viruses and malware due to their small percentage of the market). While it used to be that Macs were touted as being good for those interested in doing Graphics and multi-media, this is not so much true today. While it is true that Apple does make some systems that are good for graphics, these are in the high end range and usually in the 3-4k USD range in price.
Someone told me recently that their student needed a good computer for Graphics (Photoshop etc) so they bought them a new Macbook (the $1000 one). I hated to tell them that it in no way was a good choice for a graphics (Photoshop) computer. Granted, it would run Photoshop marginally, but not real well as anyone who knows Photoshop knows that to really have Photoshop hum you need a secondary hard drive (and a fast one) for a scratch disk. Not to mention that the brand new Macbooks are running 3 year old intel processor technology and are designed for battery life and not power.
Considering I just purchased a nice laptop for my wife for Christmas which has an Intel core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, dual hard drives, and nice graphics, not to mention a blue ray player for a bit less than the ‘cheap’ Macbook, and that it will easily run Photoshop, as well as do computer intensive video editing, it isn’t as if there aren’t some much better choices for a student who needs a good system that they can actually use to its potential for school.
While it is possible to run Windows on a Mac, but not OSX on a PC (talk about anti-competetive practices thanks to Steve Jobs), doing so results in you paying quite a bit more for the exact same hardware as in a PC. And for all those Apple fanboi’s who tout Apple’s great customer service etc, you might want to talk to a growing percentage of people who have found that Apple seems to find just about any justification that they can to not honor a warranty.
In the end it comes down to the numbers – the best bet for careers and a future says go with what the large majority of businesses run – Windows and Linux (which can easily both be run on most PC’s), the best price for the hardware comes to PC’s which are highly customizable for the student’s needs, the most software available (there is 98% more software for Linux and Windows than there is for Macs). The argument for lack of viruses and such doesn’t stand up against all the other numbers, and there is an increasing amount of malware and viruses that are now able to infect Macs as well.
In the end, while your kid may whine and beg that they ‘need’ an Apple computer, before you buy, think about the numbers and their future. What good does it do to know how to use something that only a small minority of people and businesses use? While Apple computer market shares are increasing when it comes to things like iPads, unless your kid is writing and selling apps, there is not a big need for the skills to use an iPad, nor is there a very big learning curve as compared to skills with an operating system and business software.
When it comes to colleges and Macs, this picture I snapped this past Summer at Duke University speaks volumes for what higher education institutions think about their Macs (the Macs were donated by Apple in an attempt to sway more people to buying Apples, but it doesn’t look like their use is as was intended).
Duke University Computer Lab – All the Apple computers running Microsoft Windows