Part Three: Windows Vs. Mac: A Brief Buyer's Guide

Thursday, 16 Aug 2012, 1:08:00 AM

Scott Bly

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about Windows, Mac, and mobile operating systems. This week I want to cut to the chase with a decision guide for how to make a choice when buying a new mobile device. The concept here is for anyone to be able to read through this and come to a conclusion about what type of device to get.

Decide what the new device is for. Are you replacing an existing Windows or Mac desktop? Are you adding a new mobile capability that you haven’t had before? Is it for work or for fun? Be very specific about your requirements, and have some idea about the optional goals you have as well. Email might be critical, but games and videos optional. Or vice versa.

If this is for work, then do existing work requirements force you to make a particular choice? For example, in your Microsoft business network, do you need to use a piece of software that only works on Windows? Business management, database and financial softwares tend to be Windows-only. If this is the case, then a Windows desktop or laptop is the way to go. Consider one of the new lightweight ultrabooks. The same concept applies for Macs, but generally for creative fields like video editing.

Ask yourself which operating system you are already comfortable with. If you’re a Windows user and don’t consider yourself an adventuresome computer consumer, then Microsoft might still be your best choice. Switching to a Mac isn’t for everyone, although many people find that learning a new operating system (and buying new software) is a small price to pay for the reduced risk of viruses and malware. If you’re computer phobic, consider sticking with what you know already, be it Windows or Mac.

If this is to be a mobile system, then ask yourself how mobile you really need to be, and what you need to do with this mobile device. Is it a full-on desktop replacement system? If so, then the iPad or Android tablet concept is probably a bad choice due to their limitations. However, if you already have a proper desktop or laptop that does your computer heavy lifting, then adding a mobile device that runs the lightweight iOS or Android operating system could be a great option, while still leaving you the workhorse when you need it.

Assuming you’re moving forward with a new tablet, then you have to ask yourself Apple vs. Google. If you’re already a Mac user, then it’s simple – you want an iPad (unless, like me, you just have to learn Android, or you need to run Flash on the tablet). If you’re already a Gmail user, or a Google Docs or Google Plus user, then you should probably lean toward an Android tablet.

And the last part of the puzzle is your cell phone – if you are already an iPhone user and you’re thinking about adding a tablet device, then stick with the Apple world and get an iPad (Again, unless you want to mix it up). Conversely, if you use an Android-powered phone, then go with the Android tablet.

There are other options out there, such as Windows and Blackberry phones and tablets, but the leaders now are Apple and Google. There are thousands of apps available for both platforms that can expand the capabilities of your new mobile device. I hope this guide has been helpful. Good luck in your travels as you navigate the mobile computing landscape!

Scott Bly is the President of IT Freeway, a Santa Monica-based, small business computer consultancy. He teaches seminars at MacMall in Santa Monica and is a member of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Technology Committee. His debut young adult techno-thriller novel “SMASHER” is being published by Scholastic/Blue Sky Press in Spring 2013. You can reach him via email at scott@itfreeway.com.

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