Why Apple?

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Why would anybody want to use an Apple computer when the "world" uses Windows? Why indeed!

This page makes yet another attempt at answering that question but for starters, here is a short list:

I'll go into more details on these major points later, but first, some personal history and a summary of my vantage point so that you may see where I am coming from.

Personal History

I started programming in FORTRAN and Honeywell Assembly Language (EASY) at the USC computer center while I was still in high school in 1967. I used the IBM 1130 computer at Cal Poly through my college education. At that time, it was the ONLY digital computer on campus. I've used various timeshare services, mainframe computers, workstations and personal computers during my working career. I've programmed on the original 128K Macintosh in 1984 but didn't buy my own until about 1990. I had been using an LSI-11 running the UCSD p-system until then. Starting in about 1985, at my work I used a combination of Macintosh and IBM PC computers until the IT department banished all Apple computers in favor of Wintel machines in about 1997. Since then I've used PC's at work (NT, W2k and XP) and Macintosh's at home (System 6 through X). I've had a lot of experience with almost every kind of computer and operating system and many programming languages. Of them all, the Macintosh and OS X is clearly the best of the lot, and by a large margin.

If you just count usage hours in a day, I use Windows more than the Mac. This is because while I am at work, I don't have a choice. I have to use Windows. Further, a day doesn't go by without Windows finding some way to irritate me. Most folks at work have only used Windows so that they seem resigned to the funny and often fatal behavior. They just don't realize that there is a MUCH better way. Its the folks at work that use Macs at home that shake their heads in disbelief and disgust. At home, I don't have to put up with Windows, and I won't. Except for some minor enclaves of PC usage, I run a Windows free zone at home.

We have had some Windows machines at home but none lasted very long. We bought a PowerMac 6100 with a 486 card in it that could dual boot Mac OS and DOS. It was used some, primarily for DOS games but it eventually fell into disuse and was donated to a local school. My wife bought a DEC laptop at a work surplus sale. I'm not sure why it fell aside, we still have it but it does not work. My wife also bought a Compaq laptop but it got dropped early in it's life and the display was destroyed. Compaq wanted $1800 to fix it. For awhile it served as desktop that my sons occasionally used to play X-Com. It is banished from network connection because it's W95 OS is so easily p0wnd by malware if it gets connected to the network, even for a few minutes. It has since been scrapped. We do have one new Windows laptop running Vista. My wife named it PITA (Pain In The Ass). She needed it to run a specific Windows centric piece of software (ArcGIS) that would not install under Parallels on the Mac due to memory limitation on the early version of Parallels that she was using. We didn't have a copy of XP to use with Boot Camp so we bought a Costco closeout Toshiba laptop that marginally served the purpose. That thing infuriates me, Vista is a true POS.

When it comes to spending my own money on computer gear, I have chosen the Macintosh and I see absolutely no reason to change. The Macintosh is better than the rest and getting even better all the time. The large gap between OS X and Windows is widening as well as Microsoft seems to have lost the ability to actually improve their product. Windows just keeps getting bigger without getting materially better. Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) was released over 3 years ago and it blows the doors off of Vista. Mac OS 10.5 Leopard was released in October 2007. Leopard completely blows Vista (or XP for that matter) away. Snow Leopard (10.6) was released in August 2009 and it is smaller, lighter and faster than Leopard, but for the Intel architecture only.

Over the years, I have owned many Macintoshes. I keep them for a long time, many of these I still have and all of but one of them still works, or worked when I sold them or gave them away. In the table below, BOL means Beginning Of Product Life and EOL means End of Product Life.

Model Purchased Status Notes
Mac Classic new still works still used to run Apache Strike once in a while
Quadra 700 new at EOL in storage last used as a router/hardware firewall
PowerMac 6100/DOS new at BOL donated in working condition  
PowerMac 6100 used in storage  
PowerBook 100 new at EOL in storage still works
PowerBook 540 used given away  
PowerMac 7100 used in service doesn't get used much anymore
Powerbook 1400 new In service gets only sporadic service
PowerMac G4 new out of service was my son Charlie's primary computer until a MacBook arrived
PowerMac G4 new out of service was my son Zack's primary computer until Katie gave him her old PowerBook
Beige G3 desktop new out of service was my son Richard's first computer
iBook G3 new in 2001 in service still gets used every day as a file server
iBook G3 new in 2002 unknown was my son Richard's second computer, he still has it
iBook G3 new in 2003 replaced for repeated logic board failures replace under warranty by an iBook G4
iBook G4 2004 in service my wife's secondary computer
15" AlBook new at BOL in service my secondary computer, I'm writing this page on the PowerBook
15" Albook new in 2005 in service my daughter's primary computer, she bought it with her own money and eventually gave it to Zack
iMac Core Duo new at BOL in service my primary computer
MacBook new at BOL in service my wife's primary computer
MacBook new at BOL in service my daughter Katie's primary computer
MacBook new at BOL in service my son Charlie's primary computer

That's 20 Macintosh computers for 6 people in about 18 years. We wouldn't still be buying them if we didn't think that we were getting our money's worth.

Satisfied Customers

The main reason that Apple survives and continues to grow is that overall, it has a very satisfied customer base. Not every customer is satisfied however. For a variety of reasons, a few folks feel that Apple has not done them right and they leave. However, far more feel that the alternative has not done them right and they turn to Apple. Most of these folks will stay with Apple, just as I have. Once someone has experienced satisfaction with a product, they are very likely to stay with that product. It doesn't matter if it is soap or computers, customer satisfaction and associated brand loyalty is a very powerful force.

Mac users that proclaim their satisfaction with Apple are often derided as "fanboys" who are smug and snobbish. These are the folks that now know better and try to convince others, often with little impact as the Windows crowd simply doesn't believe them. Their message gets grouped with reformed smokers, recovered alcoholics and born again religious fanatics. Nonetheless, these folks have "seen the light" in some form or other and are trying to spread the word even though it may not be well received. I also think that folks that are not yet converted may not want to believe that they've been throwing money down a rat hole or are still comfortable with what they know. Eventually, many of them will turn.

It Just Works

The main reason to buy a Macintosh is that it just works, at least most of the time. In virtually every way, Mac OS is easier to use and more reliable than Windows. However, sometimes some Macintoshes become unstable, usually due to a bad file, a bad directory or hardware problems. The file and directory problems are usually relatively easy to fix, see Fixing a Cranky Mac. Hardware issues can happen to any computer, but seem to impact Macintoshes less, probably due to better quality hardware used in the first place.

There is currently no serious malware threat so users don't have to take any special precautions. There is no worry about surfing to a "bad" web site, NONE of them can do anything bad to a Macintosh. There are a few trojans floating around but these REQUIRE that the user download something and then give explicit permission to install it. The user usually is the weakest link.

The Macintosh comes with an extensive suite of consumer software that, in each case, is superior to anything that you can get on a PC. It DOES NOT come with a full up version of Microsoft Office, but you can buy Office or use the open source alternatives in OpenOffice or NeoOffice.

The Mac doesn't get wrapped up in it's own shorts like a PC does. The memory map doesn't become stale so that daily or weekly reboots are necessary just to "clean things up." A Mac can run for months without requiring a reboot. Reboots are only really necessary after some system upgrades. System wide crashes are rare and are usually most often caused by defective hardware. Applications may individually crash, sometimes due to application specific bugs, but other applications will not be impacted. The Mac OS also doesn't leave temporary files scattered about that need to be removed to clean up the disk. Timed utility programs automatically run to clean out old and unneeded log files. Disk deframentation is not needed at all as the OS defragments on the fly.

There is a feature called SpotLight that automatically indexes all the content and metadata for every file on the disk. This allows very fast and extensive searches of the entire disk contents so that "lost" stuff can be found.

New hardware is easy to add. Most FireWire and USB devices don't even need drivers. Your average 2 button scroll wheel mouse will work just by plugging it in. Most other peripheral equipment is just as easy to add.

Updates to the system software are issued every few months. For those with broadband internet connections, these are delivered automatically via the internet although an administrator must authorize their installation.

Users can be defined with limited or administrator privileges. Users can add application to their own user space, but cannot install anything system wide, nor damage the system even by mistake. Administrators can install system wide applications but have to go to extraordinary lengths to do damage to the system. It'll never happen by accident.

There seems to be a perception among some PC users that the Mac is "too easy" and therefore somehow a less macho machine. After using PC's for years at work, I don't mind the OS looking out for my interests at all. I'll take all the help I can get. I don't need a machine that hassles me at nearly every turn, I just want to get stuff done. Besides, if I want to get down and dirty, the unix command line capability goes FAR beyond what can be done in Windows. An OS doesn't have to be hard to use to be powerful at the same time.

Macintosh Software

For a long time, a myth has been told that "you can't get any software for a Mac." This could not be further from the truth. There are only a few major PC titles that aren't available on the Macintosh. However, the major productivity tools are available. At extra cost, you can get:

Further, there are very significant tools that are available on the Mac only that have NO comparable tool for Windows except at extreme cost:

What is even more important is the software that comes with every new Macintosh. This suite, iLife, is preinstalled. There are applications that do these things (at extra cost) for the PC, but none of them are nearly as good.

There is also an $80 office suite for the Macintosh called iWork.

Neither Pages or Numbers are as heavyweight as Word or Excel, but they are MUCH easier to use than the Office applications and they do the job most of the time. Keynote just crushes PowerPoint in every way. All of these applications will read AND write Office file formats.

Macintosh Hardware Compatibility

Apple users quickly become accustomed to just plugging in a new piece of hardware and finding that it works with no hassle and no driver installations. The Mac OS simply knows about all this stuff and mice, memory cards, jump drives, disk drives (formatted HFS+, FAT32 or NTFS), hubs and most other stuff can be accessed immediately without any bother at all.

Printers are an exception, drivers are usually needed. Snow Leopard typically installs drivers only for common printers or ones that the user has added in the past. If a new printer is presented to it, it will say so and then offer to find the driver, download it from the internet and install it on the spot. That adds another minute or two, but then the printer is installed and ready to go.

Displays sometimes require a hardware adaptor to adapt the video interface of the particular display to whatever video port that that model of Macintosh has. However, once the right port is physically available, the display will add right on. You can add as many displays as you have ports for.


Microsoft was, in part, able to penetrate 90% or so of the computer market with a marginal product and monopolistic behavior. They've paid big time fines and suffered some injunctions but they have the power to push right through these annoyances and they've made it difficult for alternatives to survive.

Obtaining a near monopoly is much easier than obtaining a complete monopoly. In any given population, there will be a portion of that population that will not be budged. I call this the 90/10 rule. Getting the first 90% takes considerable effort, legal or otherwise. Many monopolies have done this. Standard Oil, AT&T, DeBeers and Microsoft among others have achieved a near monopoly. Getting that last 10% is vastly harder. There is always a portion of the population who hates your guts and will not deal with you at all. Governments actually step in once in a while as Standard Oil and AT&T (the original one) discovered. Even Microsoft has had legal pressure applied, although not hard enough, that has caused it to back off some. DeBeers seems to be hanging tough although their time will probably come.

The computer market is big enough so that a 10% share can be divided up among several other viable companies so that they can all survive and continue develop new products. Apple has managed to survive and be profitable with a 2% market share for many years although recently this share is larger, around 10% and growing.

As time goes on, Apple's market share will grow, as will the share held by Linux even though Linux hardly counts in the official market share numbers. Most Linux machines start life with Windows pre-installed and therefore count as Windows market share.

Microsoft will continue to be a large player in the personal and enterprise computer market although their dominance will diminish over time. It would be best for all parties to have sufficient clout so that no one party can exert the illegal force that Microsoft got so good at.


There has been a perception that Macs cost more than PC's. This is true if you compare a Macintosh to a $399 WalMart PC. However, look a little deeper and you'll find that for equivalent hardware and software, a Macintosh usually costs less than a similar Dell or HP and the Mac comes with far better software. You won't find WiFi, DVD burners, high speed dual core CPUs, Bluetooth and many other goodies in a bargain PC. Apple simply chooses NOT to participate in the low end market where there is little profit so the entry cost to a new Macintosh is higher than a PC.

There have been many studies completed that show that a Mac and a Dell (or HP) computer configured in a similar way have similar costs, with the Mac usually being cheaper by some small amount. However, this doesn't tell the story in two ways.

The upside is that the Mac comes with MUCH better software pre-installed, there aren't even good equivalents to iLife in the PC world. Mac OS X is far better than Windows (pick any version of Windows, they are all pretty much the same except for eye candy).

The Mac also comes in FAR fewer versions that you can select from in the PC world. While a Mac compares very well with PARTICULAR configurations of a PC that match (or at least approximate) features, there are large gaps in price and features in the Mac line from one model to the next. There are lots of PC configurations that can fill those "gaps" at a lower cost than the next better Mac version and still have better features than the next lower Mac version. Also, since many manufacturers participate in the PC world, you will find that you can probably find a good match to exactly your desired feature set in a PC. The PC manufacturers also often configure some systems for a mass market and market a few models below the cost of a similarly configured custom configuration, however usually with lower quality hardware. If you must have a particular combination of widgets you probably won't find that exact combination in a Mac. You might find that to get a certain level of graphic support, for example, you might have to get more other stuff than you really wanted at additional cost.

PC Compatibility

Until January 2006, Apple computers used the IBM PowerPC processor. While the PC world derides the PPC, it is a damn good CPU. However, IBM wasn't going in the direction that Apple wanted to in terms of power consumption. Apple had run a secret operation for years where an Intel version of OS X was in development in parallel with the released PPC version of the OS. When Apple decided to formally switch, it took them 216 days to complete the transition. Backwards compatibility was maintained for almost all applications that ran on OS X although compatibility with OS 9 and earlier was dropped.

Since the Macintosh is a PC inside, it can run PC software. There are currently three ways to run PC software on a Macintosh. The Macintosh actually runs MORE software than a PC does as it will run every Mac title (released for any version of OS X and every title compatible with XP SP2 or later. Most titles released for Windows versions earlier than XP SP2 will run in Parallels or VMWare Fusion under some earlier version of Windows or DOS.

There are 3 ways to run PC software on a Mac. Two of them require that you bring your own (preferably legal) copy of Windows to the party.

  1. Boot Camp. Boot Camp is Apple's version of a dual boot solution. Boot Camp prepares an Intel Macintosh to dual boot Windows. When booted under Windows, it is in every way a PC. Windows lives on its own partition of the disk. Some claim that it is a better PC than a traditional PC. You have to bring your own copy of XP SP2 or Vista.

  2. Virtualization

  3. Crossover. Crossover does Windows compatibility in a different way. Crossover emulates the Windows APIs so that a copy of Windows isn't even needed. An exe file is simply double clicked and it runs without Windows. Not all Windows applications work with Crossover, but the major ones, such as MS Office, do. If an application makes a direct hardware call or bypasses the standard APIs in any way, it won't run under Crossover.


Security is a big issue in the Windows world. Depending on who you believe, there are 100,000 to 200,000 types of malware out there waiting to infect a PC. A PC unprotected by some kind of 3rd party security software will be infected in minutes of it's first internet connection even if the user does nothing at all.

This situation doesn't exist on the Macintosh. There are lots of explanations for why there are ZERO serious exploits out there in the wild but I think that it is because the unix underpinnings of the Mac OS are just more fundamentally secure than Windows. There are more than 20 million Mac users on the net, the Macintosh is not obscure. In Vista's first week of beta testing, there were only 10,000 copies out there, but there was already malware that attacked it. Even the released version of Vista is successfully attacked and owned by hackers.

There ought to be some malware that attacks the Mac OS in the wild, but there is none and it's been 6 years. There have been some laboratory level attacks demonstrated, but these all require a user interaction to let it happen. Further, Apple has patched all these exploit paths.

There are some trojans released recently that do what they can to redirect the user to other web sites than what they wanted. These have to be explicitly downloaded by the user, executed by the user and provided an administrator password by the user before they can do anything. Even at that, they don't really "infect" the system, they just run like any other application and can be easily defeated.

Apple is continually issuing Security Updates to patch potential exploits so the the system is clearly not bullet proof or the patches would not be required. It's just that none of these potential exploits can result in mass infections and Apple is ahead of the power curve and closing them off before they are discovered by the bad guys. Someday, someone may successfully pull off an exploit. When this happens, it'll get patched and life will go on. In the meantime, the Mac OS is, for all practical purposes, immune.

Apple's Business Plan

There are many makers of PC's. Some are pretty mainstream like Dell and HP. Some are speciality houses like AlienWare. Each of these manufacturers is trying to fill some niche, big or small. There is LOTs of variety of PC hardware out there. As soon as some component manufacturer released a new part, it'll find it's way into some piece of hardware and the PC user can buy it.

Apple is one company, granted a fairly large one, but it is just one company. Apple cannot be all things to all people so that it doesn't try to make hardware to fit every niche. It picks the markets that it wants to address and carefully releases only a few models. It realizes that there are some potential customers that want something different from the few models offered. Apple realizes that it will cost them too much to satisfy everybody so they simply try to satisfy the majority. Offering only a few models allows Apple to achieve economies of scale such that the customers that are satisfied are well satisfied at a reasonable cost. Apple can provide better quality hardware at lower cost by limiting the range of models offered.

Currently, there are only 5 computer product lines, the Mac Mini (which may go away soon), the Mac Book, the MacBook Pro, the iMac and the Mac Pro. There are two or three sub models of each major type. One could argue that the iPhone and Apple TV are Macintosh computers as well, however, these fall into another class, the embedded device. These are general purpose computers hiding behind some specific application. If one of the offered models doesn't suit your needs or desires, then you're not going to want an Apple. Apple is currently not targeting the enterprise sector at all, Apple concentrates on the consumer sector. There is a plenty large enough market in consumer computers to make Apple a large and profitable player. Apple also concentrates on the mid to high end range of products, the ones that can support a reasonable profit margin. It does not offer lower end hardware at all so if you are looking for a $300 Wal-Mart special, look elsewhere.

Windows Killers

There seems to be some recurring theme in the Linux world about "killing" Microsoft. Microsoft may also feel that it has to "kill" everybody else to succeed, but this doesn't mean that this is a good plan for anybody. It won't be possible and not even desirable to kill Microsoft and Windows. Microsoft has it's place, it just needs to be cut down to size and this will probably happen. Microsoft doesn't have to die for Linux or Mac OS to succeed. MicroSoft just needs to realize that they will have to play fair. In time, they will have to. Competition is good. As long as open standards are followed for data, disk, and communications formats, everybody can play. The best software will garner support, the weakest will die.


Monocultures are generally bad in almost all things. Weaknesses in the culture can result in disasters. Recall the Irish potato famine of the 1840's. Ireland was too dependent on primarily one kind of potato and a blight killed almost all of the food crop in mere months.

Malware is so prevalent in the WinTel world because of the Microsoft monoculture. There are too many similar targets that are susceptible to similar attacks. If there were more Linux, Mac OS X and other BSD unix OS's out there in use, then it would be more difficult for any given malware to bring down the world's computing resources. Some of these will survive any given attack. It would be better if the world's computers relied on a broader spectrum of operating systems to make the consequence of widespread infections less severe.

Why Not Apple?

Why not? There are lots of claimed reasons but only a few hold any water. One cannot claim a performance issue as Macs have every bit of the CPU smoke as a PC. The MacPro is the ONLY 3 GHz 8 core machine that you can buy as of this writing. It's not cheap at $4k, but it has 8 cores and supports the fastest GPU's out there. The iMac family with a Core 2 Duo has more CPU horsepower than most users can dream of using. I have an older Core Duo iMac and it is a rare time indeed that I top out the CPU. The cost issue doesn't work either unless you really want cheap POS computer that won't last.

Sunk Investment. If a user has a large investment in PC software, especially in the form of business applications and databases, then there might not be too much advantage of using a Macintosh unless it was booted into Windows or running a visualized Windows.

Games. There are far more game titles on the PC than on the Mac. Most of the good ones are available on the Mac, but the majority of game titles are PC specific.

Hardware Configuration. If one of the few available Macintosh models doesn't meet your requirements for the specific hardware included, then you need to buy your hardware elsewhere.... and put up with Windows.

DIY. Those that want to build their own system and modify it piecemeal over it's life will not like the Macintosh. All but the MacPro are essentially closed systems that cannot be easily upgraded with new hardware. RAM can be added by the user, but that is about it. The MacPro is easily user configurable, but it is pretty expensive too.

Cameras. Virtually all Macintosh models now come with iSight cameras built in. If your environment does not allow a camera, then you cannot use a Macintosh. Many government agencies and government contractors do not allow cameras of any sort, much less ones that can do video built right into the computer.

Wireless. All Macintosh models come with built in WiFi, most with BlueTooth too. Like a camera, if your environment does not allow radio emissions, or even radio hardware installed, then you'll need to find another computer.

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© 2007-2009 George Schreyer
Created 2 June 07
Last Updated September 27, 2009