As I sit in a coffee shop in one of the world’s technological centers of gravity – Seattle – I thought I’d offer my take on one of the classic debates of modern technology:
PC versus Mac
This topic inspires heated debate among technologists, hardcore fanbois, and the population of computer users in general. Ironically, Macs predominate here in the Olive Way Starbucks in Seattle – a stone’s throw from Microsoft’s home in Redmond, Washington, and Bill Gates’ home on the opposite shore of Lake Washington.
Cut to the Chase
- On average, people spend less money buying a new PC compare to buying a new Mac.
- PCs have fewer security vulnerabilities than Macs. (I’ll probably take a ton of heat for that statement from those who don’t know any better – but it’s true).
- Macs and PCs use the same hardware components manufacturers.
For more background, please read on…
What Distinguishes a Mac from a PC?
Put differently, what distinguishes Apple from Microsoft? The central philosophical difference between Apple and Microsoft can be summed up by the differing visions of each company’s founder. The late Steve Jobs believed that hardware and software should be tightly integrated. Practically, what that means is that, unlike Microsoft and Google, you will only see Apple’s operating system sold on a computer Apple makes. Bill Gates believes that the hardware and the software are separate. Hence Windows appears on Dells, HPs, Lenovos, etc. Google has also followed this model, licensing their software to multiple manufacturers. It is worth noting that in the past few years, Microsoft may have come around to Apple’s way of thinking: starting with the Surface tablet in 2012 Microsoft has designed its own hardware, although the majority of Windows computers are still not designed by Microsoft.
In my opinion, this has led to several things:
- Bill Gates put a PC in hundreds of millions, if not billions, of homes. The Microsoft model lead to lower PC prices, and placed the power of a personal computer within reach of billions.
- The perception (probably true) that Macs “just work.” Such tight control of the environment allows for better integration of hardware and software.
- The ironic view that Macs are the counter-cultural computer. (I suppose literally speaking this is true – something like 95% of the world’s computers are PC). The reality is Macs are born in an extremely tightly controlled ecosystem that allows for little in the way of hardware variation or dissension. There are a handful of Mac models. PCs are like snowflakes – each one is almost unique.
I thought I’d take this opportunity to set the record straight on some commonly held notions about Macs and PCs.
- Contrary to popular belief, Mac has more technical vulnerabilities than Windows. 1 However, Macs are targeted far less (probably because so few people use them, relatively speaking, although the number attacks directed at Macs is increasing) than PCs. Personally, I give the edge to the PC. Smart folks disagree on this, but at the end of the day, I think Macs give everyday users, especially home and small-office/home-office users, a false sense of security, and therefore are less secure. Of course, security decisions need to be taken on a case by case basis, and are as much – if not more – based on usage and maintenance, than the underlying technology.
- There is nothing unique about Mac hardware – the basic hardware is similar to a PC. Both PCs and Macs use the same processors, hard drives, etc. Since 2006, Apple has used Intel processors, and has moved towards commoditized parts for the last 20 years.2
Next Time – What Does Island Joe Recommend? (And more importantly, What Does Island Joe Do?)
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1As judged by raw number of vulnerabilities in 2017. See “Top 50 Products By Total Number Of “Distinct” Vulnerabilities in 2017.” CVE Details. Accessed April 18, 2018. https://www.cvedetails.com/top-50-products.php?year=2017.
2Recent reports indicate Apple will move to using its own chips by 2020. See King, Ian, and Mark Gurman. “Apple Plans to Use Its Own Chips in Macs From 2020, Replacing Intel.” Bloomberg.com. April 02, 2018. Accessed April 18, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-02/apple-is-said-to-plan-move-from-intel-to-own-mac-chips-from-2020.