From time to time, I get e-mails asking questions about Apple computers, and whether they’re better than Windows-based computers. This month I received a response from an Apple Macintosh user, who wanted to point out that I should spend some time in this column talking about “more than Windows.” In fact, he went on to say that Macs are “more user-friendly and never get viruses.”
Let’s talk about that a moment.
First, let me start by saying that I don’t hold any specific preference for one operating system over the other. In fact, I personally use both. The main reason you see this column focus on the Windows operating system is simply because of numbers. In one nine-year study that just ended at the beginning of 2013, more than 82 percent of consumers still used some form of the Windows operating system. Mac users made up just nine percent of the total market share.
So, it’s no wonder the majority of questions I receive revolve around Windows issues. There are simply more of them out there.
Now, before I move on to the notion that Macs are more friendly and/or reliable, let me reiterate. I have nothing against Mac computers. In fact, I find them particularly useful for certain jobs. I have always lived by the mantra that the machine should fit the user. So, if a particular user prefers a particular type of operating system, then I do whatever is in my power to support that user.
That said, let’s dispel a few of the myths surrounding Mac computers.
One of the most common misconceptions out there is that Macs are invulnerable to viruses. While it is true that Macs have a smaller number of potential viruses, and that Apple does a good job of keeping security holes patched, it would be unwise to assert that all Macs are completely secure.
Historically speaking, Mac-specific viruses date back to 1982. In fact, there have been instances all the way through 2010, with very few gaps in between. Of course, there are also application specific flaws that affect all operating systems as well. If you’re a follower of this column, you know about the Java security hole that keeps popping up. That flaw appears to be non-specific to the operating system.
So, no. Mac computers do not hold some mystical power to prevent infection. But, why is that?
Primarily, it is once again a numbers game. There are simply more Windows users out there. So, if you’re writing malicious software and you want to infect as many users as possible, you target Windows because that’s where you get the most bang for your buck.
As far as usability goes, I’m not sure there’s anything more user-friendly about a Mac computer versus a Windows computer.
At one time, I might have taken you to task about utilizing a Mac for everyday purposes because of software compatibility. Not all software was compatible with the Mac operating system just a few short years ago. Now though, most software manufacturers release their software for use in all operating systems. So, for the most part, that’s no longer an issue.
Honestly, I don’t see any real advantage for either one now in terms of usability or user-friendliness.
However, both of these personal computers are machines. And, machines break. So, ask yourself these two questions before choosing one over the other: Where do I take my broken computer to get it fixed? Who do I know that can help me if I have a problem?
If you take those two answers into account when purchasing a new computer (of either type) then I bet you’ll be alright.