MAC Attached

War and PC

Whether or not the Mac is best for you depends on many factors. If yours is a business that depends heavily on graphics or producing multimedia material, you're probably well aware of the Mac's virtues and don't need persuading. Industries such as advertising, movie production, music, Web site development and computer games, for instance, have come to depend on many specialized software tools that in many cases are still available only for (or work best on) a Macintosh.

But what if your business involves retailing, professional or business services, a craft, or marketing, and it's not particularly computer-intensive? What if all you need is basic personal and business computing functions, such as word processing, accounting, an electronic spreadsheet and Internet access? In this case, you're much freer to choose between the Mac and an IBM-compatible PC because the software you need is more or less generic and available for either type of machine.

Perhaps for you it's only a matter of comfort: If you're pleased with your Mac setup, you find it's doing the job, and you don't see any need for specialized PC-only software products, there is really no reason to switch. You can continue benefiting from what you probably bought the machine for in the first place--the friendly computing style that Mac users are always raving about.

And you'll be able to avoid the often-difficult technicalities of setting up and maintaining a PC and its software. Rob Grierson, an Evanston, Illinois, computer consultant who has worked with both Macs and PCs at his company, Grierson Consulting, says, "Anything you want to do can be done on a Mac. If you already know how to use a Mac, buy a Mac. If you buy a PC, you'll have to learn how to use it from scratch. Windows 95 may [make a PC] look like a Macintosh, but underneath it all is a complexity you should avoid."

If you happen to like fiddling with computers, of course, the PC may be just the thing for you. It offers more options and internal parameters you can get your hands on and tweak. But if you're trying to run a business, you probably don't want to spend too much time working on the guts of your computer. Says retailing consultant Nelson, "With a PC, I doubt I'd be as [computer] literate as I am today."

Take new program installations. On a PC, this generally results in all sorts of oddly named components getting scattered across several different folders in the machine's directory, or listing of files. Often, there's no clue as to what each of these components does or which program it's designed to work with. Mac program components, on the other hand, tend to be fewer and install in a more predictable way, making it much easier to troubleshoot and maintain the overall system. And if you frequently need to train new employees on your machine or you have a network of machines to oversee, chances are the Mac's still a better solution because of its straightforward software.

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