For business owners, however, the choice of a computer should be more a matter of practicality than of politics or "cool" technology. The question you need to ask yourself is simply this: Does this computer help me do the tasks I need done for a reasonable amount of money, taking into account all costs, such as training, software products and hourly consulting fees?
Many Mac customers have done the math and can't seriously consider switching. "I haven't even thought about it," says Bob Nelson, who runs his homebased Phoenix retail strategy consulting business, Power Retailing Inc., on Macintosh computers. "My Macintoshes have the guts of my company in them. I would have to spend months redoing what I've already done. And I don't think the PC would be able to handle all the materials I've developed since I founded the company 15 years ago."
Like many entrepreneurs, Nelson has an accountant do his books, but he depends 100 percent on his own personal computer for all his business communications--writing letters and e-mail messages, preparing business proposals, creating promotional materials for his retailing clients, and surfing the Web. Nelson says he's more interested in better serving his clients than in becoming a computer jock. And, he says, "The possibility of saving a few hundred dollars by switching to a PC is not enough to make me do it."
It's the Mac's simplified, easy-to-use style of computing, of course, that has always been its main appeal, especially for nontechnical buyers. And, despite Apple's recent struggles, the Mac hasn't lost any of that simplicity or appeal. In fact, its software seems all the more efficient and practical in this Internet era, which is a rather messy tangle of technologies that most people can't fathom.
Configuring a Mac for connection to an ISP typically requires only about one-third the number of steps it takes to connect a Windows 95-based PC. And for all business-oriented tasks on the Net--as opposed to games, for instance--there are just as many Mac-compatible software programs available as there are PC programs.