Mac vs. PC Which Is Better for the Average Consumer Thesis

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Mac vs. PC: Which is better for the average consumer?

Comparing Apple Macintosh vs. PC-Compatibles: Which Is Best for the Consumer?

Operating System Price/Performance Comparisons

Ergonomics and Usability

Developer Communities and New Application Development

Feature Comparison

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The debate of which specific category of personal computer, the Apple Macintosh desktops and laptops or IBM PC-compatible desktops and laptops are superior for the average consumer is the subject of this paper. This is a long-standing debate that has been going on for literally decades, since the first Apple Macintosh PCs were introduced in the early 1980s, complete with its own operating system, systems architecture featuring Motorola instead of Intel processors, and intensive use of graphics instead of a textual interface. In addition, the first Macintosh systems had a closed architecture, that significantly increased aftermarket shares for Apple of accessories, yet made partnering with Apple from a 3rd party company standpoint difficult if not impossible. During these first several product generations of the Apple Macintosh systems that eventually led to the development of the first Apple laptop in 1999, IBM PC-compatible systems manufacturers aggressively built out entire sub-industries of accessories, applications, networks, and storage products to support the PC-compatibles industry. This resulted in the majority of developers concentrating on the PC-compatible platform during these years, yet conversely gave Apple valuable expertise in managing the supply chain, logistics and sourcing for their unique line of laptops including the MacBook Series today.

Thesis on Mac vs. PC Which Is Better for the Average Consumer Assignment

Apple's customer base is one of the most passionate and known for their unwavering support of new products and services from the company (Heron, 2007) including rapid adoption of the first generation of Apple Macintosh laptop systems starting with the G3 Series in 1998, followed by the iBook Series in late 1999, culminating with the MacBook Series in mid-2006. As the majority of systems Apple sells today are laptops, this paper concentrates on the comparison of this product category with comparable PC-compatible systems in this form factor.

Operating System Price/Performance Comparisons

The largest value-added cost component of any laptop is the software royalties paid to 3rd party companies for the use of their operating systems and applications. It is common for $75 or more per IBM PC-compatible laptop to be paid to Microsoft for use of their operating system alone (Frakes, 2006). In fact Microsoft is known for having an expensive enterprise licensing model (Hedgebeth, 2007) which has forced many laptop manufacturers to consider open source operating systems including Linux. The cost for Microsoft Office on an IBM PC-compatible laptop can also add an additional $150 or more to the cost of manufacturing the laptop was well. It is common to find laptop companies struggling with how to profitably cover their cost of production when software royalties around can average $225 or more. These costs are always passed on to the consumer, often inflating the costs of IBM PC-compatible laptops over the price of comparably equipped Apple laptops of comparable power and speed. Apple is today delivering their MacOS X 10.4, and many IBM PC-compatible laptop manufacturers are providing Microsoft Windows Vista Premium Edition in competitive systems. For the typical consumer users, the stability and usability of the operating system is going to be critical if the laptop is going to be adopted for everyday tasks or not. The beta test period of the Apple MacOS X 10.4 is over a year longer than that of Windows Vista; in addition 3rd party testing has shown the Apple operating system to be consistently more stable than its Microsoft counterpart (Strategic Direction, 2008). There is also the added benefit to consumers of having the cost of the operating system included in the baseline costing figures of the laptops Apple sells; this can account for a $100 or more difference in the price of a laptop (Prince, 2008). Apple has also spent considerable R&D resources to ensure that its legacy applications, written to the Motorola microprocessors its previous generation Macintosh systems and laptops were based on, can be transported into the MacOS X 10.4 operating system. While byte ordering is significantly different between Motorola processors used in the past and today, Apple continues to pursue a strategy of including hybrid microprocessors including the PowerPC which can emulate Intel commands, in addition to use of mainstream Motorola processors, and as was announced less than thirty six months ago, use of the Intel microprocessors in selected systems and laptops. IBM PC-compatible laptops on the other hand are completely dependent on the Intel product roadmap.

The implications on operating systems for the average consumer of these decisions on the use of microprocessors are critical. First, there is the issue of backward compatibility of applications based on the byte ordering of the processors themselves (Mossberg, 2007). This is an area that many analysts called a weakness for Apple since the introduction of their closed-architecture Apple Macintoshes during the 1980s and throughout the 90s. Apple has since gone to a more open architectural strategy and this is reflected in their defining an operating system platform that can take into account Motorola, Intel and hybrid microprocessors. Evidence of the effectiveness of this dual processor strategy is illustrated in how the MacOS X 10.4 operating system is designed to meet a variety of unmet needs of mainstream consumers without having to concentrate on the lowest common denominator of performance. Second, the variations in operating system structure and definition have major implications for system performance overall (Predd, Cass, 2005). Microsoft's operating system strategy in the past concentrated on the development of pre-emptive multi-task threading, or the ability of a given thread in an application to sizes the necessary memory and pre-emptively multi-task a process from a lower priority application. This was first introduced in the Windows NT and later Windows XP operating systems, where multithreaded applications were based on dedicated memory partitions in these operating systems. Microsoft moved away from pre-emptive multi-task threading to dedicated memory partitions in Windows XP and continues this on with Windows Vista. This was done to alleviate system lock-ups and system crashes due to memory conflicts. Despite all these improvements however, Windows Vista has been plagued with problems and a lack performance improvements in key application areas that the average consumer relies on (Lahart, 2007). Third, the variation in microprocessor strategies is also influencing the ability of these two systems to complete graphics-intensive tasks. It has been reported by industry analysts including Wall Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal (Mossberg, 2007) and (Lahart, 2007) that the tight integration of graphics applications to the Motorola microprocessor including the PowerPC yield significantly greater performance from their anecdotal tests reviewing the PowerBook G4 relative to the Dell Studio 15 for example. This is due to the Intel-based IBM PC-compatible laptops requiring applications to be mapped to a common set of commands for the processors that text, graphics and Web-based applications use. Apple's strategy has been to work with microprocessor vendors and create a specific set of commands for each microprocessor they support to optimize system performance on specific tasks. This translates into significant performance results for Apple on key graphical and indexing tasks relative to IBM PC-compatible laptops.

It can be seen from this comparison that the Apple microprocessor and operating system strategy is highly synergistic in that they company has worked diligently to make sure each is complimentary of the other. This has led to the Apple MacOS X 10.4 becoming the foundation for high performance graphics, editing, audio-visual and digital content related performance relative to IBM PC-compatible laptops. In many respects the strategy of Intel-based laptops is to seek out processor efficiency and cost reduction to ensure the cost of laptops will continue to fall. The proliferation of IBM PC-compatible laptops is evidence of this strategy. Apple has taken a much more targeted, differentiated approach to defining the strategies between microprocessors and operating systems, and has been able to in turn differentiate at the application level of their systems as well. When all these factors are taken into account, the Apple operating systems' designed-in integration to both Intel and Motorola microprocessors and the development of highly specialized applications, in addition to the testing completed of the MacOS X 10.4 operating system makes the Apple more attuned to the needs of the average consumer. It is also important to note that the costs of this integration between microprocessors and operating systems is a sunk cost; the consumers of these systems are not required to pay them to cover royalties as is the case with Microsoft.

Ergonomics and Usability

The development of the Apple interface has continually refined through the use of Advisory Councils and a variety of Voice of the Customer programs within Apple (Holt, 2003), as has the Windows interface of Microsoft's operating system. The difference however has been the speed of innovation that Microsoft has been able to initiate and maintain, fueled by the highly loyal customer base they have that suggests many of the navigational improvements to their applications and operating systems. Ergonomics and usability is also enhanced… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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