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Is a Mac Right For You?

Not long ago, if you were to ask PC users what they thought about Apple Macs, you'd probably get one of two responses: Either they'd say, "Oh, those are the computers used by college students," or you'd hear, "Aren't Macs used only by creative types, like artists and musicians?"

What today's business people and entrepreneurs are quickly beginning to understand is that Apple's iMacs (desktop computers) and MacBooks (notebook computers) can not only handle virtually every business application a PC can handle, but also provide a more stress-free computing experience.

Today's Macs are more intuitive and stable than PCs running Windows Vista or XP, and they can even run Windows applications. Mac users also worry less while surfing the web, since the Mac OS X operating system is not susceptible to spyware or viruses.

Another benefit is Apple's technical support (for those who pay for the optional AppleCare program), which feature unlimited in-person or telephone support from Mac experts who speak in layman's terms and are knowledgeable about the products. Apple has virtually eliminated long hold times for telephone support and welcomes users to receive in-person support or repairs at any Apple Store.

Apple also now offers a free service that will transfer all of your existing PC data to a new Mac when it's purchased at an Apple Store. For an additional $99 a year, Apple will provide one-on-one training on any Mac to get new users up to speed on the differences between the Windows and the Mac OS X operating system.

Some Businesses Are Making the Mac Migration
Several factors have come together to send some entrepreneurs toward Macs. First, Apple has launched the successful "I'm a Mac" ad campaign. Also, the Mac OS X Leopard operating system has made it possible and more attractive for third-party software developers to release Mac versions of popular business applications.

Recent hardware upgrades now allow Macs to run Windows XP or Vista, meaning that if a Mac version of a popular business application isn't yet available, the user can run the Widows version without experiencing slow processing speeds or other hassles.

While Macs and PCs still operate differently, Apple and its software developers have overcome many data compatibility issues, meaning that data from a Mac can now be exchanged with a PC. Plus, Macs can be connected to office networks.

Business Applications That are Mac Friendly
Microsoft Office has long been a highly used application among business PC users. Until its most recent release, however, the Mac version of Microsoft Office had compatibility issues with the PC version, meaning documents created on one platform could not easily be transferred to the other.

With the release of Microsoft Office Mac: 2008 edition, compatibility issues with data and files created on a PC vs. a Mac have been virtually eliminated, making it possible for PC and Mac users to communicate and operate better together in a work environment.

Other popular business applications that were once available exclusively to Windows users, like Quicken Personal Finance Software, QuickBooks and PersonalBrain Pro, are also now Mac compatible. Plus, you'll find Mac versions of almost every popular Adobe application (including Photoshop CS3, InDesign CS3 and Illustrator CS3).

While Macs come with dozens of useful applications built in (including the iLife '08 suite of programs), Apple's website offers a download section, which allows users to download shareware or 30-day free trial versions of thousands of first- and third-party software applications, including many popular business applications.

By trying software before purchasing it, users can determine which applications are best suited to meet their unique computing needs. Any Mac OS X software application will run on any current iMac or MacBook, so there's no need to worry about matching up system specifications, processor speeds, sound card or graphics card compatibility.

Transfer Files and Data with Ease
For Mac users doing their computing in a Windows-dominated environment, there are several third-party products, including iTornado ($79.95), that make transferring data and files between a Mac and a Windows-based PC easy.

iTornado incorporates a proprietary, 4-foot-long USB cable that connects two computers (such as a Mac and PC, two PCs, or two Macs). The cable has built-in file transfer software, allowing instant configuration and data transfer of files that the user selects using a point-and-click interface.

BlackBerry, Palm Treo, Windows Mobile or Apple iPhone users can also sync data between popular Mac applications and their mobile devices using first- and third-party software, such as Mark/Space's Missing Link application ($39.95).

The only way to know if you're a Mac person is to try one. The sleek, ergonomic design of these machines might catch your eye, but the functionality of the latest Macs will definitely meet your business computing needs.

Jason R. Rich is the bestselling author of more than 39 books, including Mac Migration: The Small-Business Guide to Switching to the Mac, available from Entrepreneur Press. He's also a regular contributor to numerous national magazines, major daily newspapers and popular websites.

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