No matter how far technology goes or how crucial integration across platforms becomes, you can still count on an eternal split between PCs and Macs. With fierce competition between the two crossing over into the realms of mobile computing, smartphones, and pretty much every other product, the choice between a PC and a Macintosh determines more than your home desktop’s OS. Historically, something as regular as a writing program would need completely different versions to run seamlessly on both.
The Basics of PC and Mac
First, let’s look at PCs — the vast majority of computers out there, including desktops and laptops. Windows computers are PCs, as are computers running Linux or any of the dozens of lesser-known operating systems that aren’t Mac OS. With most PCs, you have a great degree of control over your hardware. You can swap out CPUs, power supplies, connection hubs, motherboards, graphics cards — any and everything in your system. It may be more difficult with a laptop, but the option still exists.
On the other side of the equation, we have Apple computers running Mac OS. While the hardware on these isn’t quite as fixed as it once was, they’re still largely pre-built, unalterable systems. That means two things for the user: one, they’re built to perform well because the hardware reflects on Apple directly in a way PC parts don’t. Two, upgrading usually means a big expenditure, since you can’t upgrade piecemeal with the same ease.
Of course, there are systems that blur the line once you get into custom builds, but presumably if you’re at that point, you already know your preference for productivity.
PC vs Mac: Power
It’s essentially impossible to say whether Mac or PC offers more power for productivity, because both come in so many variations. If you’re putting the time in to build your own PC, you’re probably going to get more bang for your buck. If you’re buying premade, Apple at the very least can be trusted to offer consistency in a way pre-built PC brands do not. Either way, you’ll want to do your homework on a particular system’s ability to run the apps you need for productivity rather than assuming any PC or Mac can do what you need.
PC vs Mac: Integrated applications
For years, Macs stood well above PCs regarding integrated applications, and for good reason — with the relative scarcity of third-party programs on their platform, Apple needed to offer tools worth using to remain competitive. This is essentially a large part of what lead to the Mac’s reputation as the system of choice for productivity. For media editing and a host of other tasks, Windows and other PC operating systems’ in-house solutions simply couldn’t keep up.
The modern incarnations of Windows have greatly bridged the gap between the two, but most Windows users will still prefer third-party alternatives in most cases. What has notably improved on the PC side as a result of better in-house application development is the integration between platforms. It’s far easier to seamlessly manage productivity tools across your desktop, tablet, and smartphone than before, eroding one of the key strengths Mac traditionally offered. Mac still does it better, but the difference between the two is shrinking.
PC vs Mac: External applications
When we start looking at external applications developed by third parties, Mac begins to fall behind. While there’s certainly strength to be found in the unified, managed sandbox of the Apple ecosystem as a whole, individual solutions on PC tend to be more versatile and powerful. It’s simply a matter of reach: PCs, in particular PCs running Windows, still make up the bulk of the market, therefore you get more PC-savvy “devs” competing to produce the winning productivity tools.
That said, the trend of technology looks to return parity between the two, as much by coincidence as anything. Why? Because technology continues to move in the direction of web-based solutions operating remotely — so-called Software-as-a-Service solutions which operate largely agnostic to the system involved. While the intention behind these tools may be to make it easier to leverage applications across a variety of machines for mobility and ease of use, it also means Mac users will be less inhibited on third-party options moving forward.
A few years back, one might struggle to find certain niche productivity applications like an online odds calculator that worked well on Mac. If one existed for your field, it might be of inferior quality due to a lack of competition. Today, one can run something as niche as a poker odds calculator directly from the web, regardless of their hardware.
It should come as no surprise to hear that experts have largely moved past the question of whether one or the other wins the productivity race, because of the rapid rise of cloud-based solutions. Savvy users who want access to absolutely everything can use Mac computers equipped with workarounds to run their favorite Windows programs, but it’s increasingly unnecessary to go that far as more and more of the top developers move their programs into the cloud. Why make life complicated when a program can work perfectly on literally any computer?
At the end of the day, the gaps between Mac and PC are shrinking with each successive generation of product. Windows 10 resembles the Mac OS more than ever, Macs continue to shrug off the worst constraints of the Apple sandbox, and popular languages like Python play nice whether you’re running a PC or Mac. So you’re going to be most productive, in most cases, by working with the tools you’re most familiar with — wherever those are to be found. If you have no preference or familiarity, you’ll want to experiment with both and see which camp you eventually side with.
Featured photo credit: Wikimedia via upload.wikimedia.org