Given the passion often displayed by owners of both Windows and Mac computers, you may be surprised to learn what a small share of the global computer market Apple actually controls. While the sales of iPhones, iPods and iPads provide a strong boost to Apple’s overall earnings, Macs account for about 8 percent of computers worldwide. In fact, in 2020 the greatest threat to Windows’ dominance of the operating-system market became Google’s Chrome OS, which at the end of 2020 moved into second place in computer shipments, with Chromebooks accounting for 14.5 percent of shipments. Both Apple and Google ate into Microsoft’s market dominance, but at the end of 2020 Microsoft still had the lion’s share, with 80.5 percent.
Probably the most striking difference between Macs and PCs is in customer satisfaction. In 2020, Apple took the top spot in a Brand Intimacy COVID Study by the MBLM branding agency, which surveyed all brands, not just computers. But the American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Apple the top computer brand in both 2019 and 2020, with Samsung and Acer in the second and third positions.
Apple has long enjoyed a reputation for good customer service. That’s probably due in part to the way that the company provides service. Windows owners can call tech support or go to a third-party repair store, but Mac users can get face-to-face assistance from a technician at the Genius Bar help desk located in any Apple Store.
It also helps that Apple has a centralized identity. If you have a problem with a Mac, whether it’s the hardware or the operating system, you can go to the Genius Bar. But what happens if your Windows is on the fritz? You might have to speak to two or more companies just to identify the underlying problem. Although Microsoft also has technical services in their stores, it only supports its own devices like the Surface and Xbox.
One of the most important reasons Mac hasn’t captured a larger share of the computer market is the perceived lack of software written for its operating system. In the 1990s Apple’s decline frightened developers away from the platform. Steve Jobs’s return to the company inspired confidence, and so did a 2009 investment in the company by Microsoft itself. Since then, Apple’s commitment to its developers — including Microsoft, which maintains an up-to-date version of its Office suite of business software for the Mac — has chipped away at the software gap. Nevertheless, there are still some specialized software developers who don’t create Mac versions of their software, but in turn, there are some Mac developers who won’t write Windows software. With the increasing amount of web-based business tools that will run on just about any computer, this argument becomes more moot.
It’s not just work that is hindered by Mac’s perceived limited software selection — it’s also play. Most computer gamers gravitate toward the Windows, thanks to the wide selection of recreational software offered for Windows systems. For a long time, developers refused to port their games to the Mac. But Apple’s resurgence has also created opportunities for Mac gamers to join in the fun.
Although the first Macintosh computers used a processor from the Motorola 68000 series, they transitioned to Intel processors in the mid-2000s. Once Mac OS could run on the same processors as Windows machines, you could install Windows alongside the Mac OS on your computer and use either or both. For a little more than a decade you could compare specifications of a Mac and a Windows and get a comparison that was more apples to apples — so to speak.
In 2020, Apple announced that it would transition Mac OS again, this time to its own processor, the M1. Macs with this new chip began appearing in 2021. Unlike the Intel-based machines, the M1 is a system-on-a-chip — you can’t compare the processor and graphics card with a Windows and an M1 Mac side-by-side. With this in mind, you can still compare how quickly the two render graphics or process information. It’s just not as easy as it was with Intel-based Macs.
The kinds of input-output found on Macs and Windows also differ. Desktop Macs offer a pretty standard selection of such features, including USB and HDMI ports. Apple drew a lot of criticism when it switched to the USB-C connector on its laptops, which required Mac users to buy adapters for HDMI and the original USB connectors.
As of early 2021, however, the company has stayed the course. It also has not released a touch-screen Mac, unlike Windows, Chrome OS and Linux computers. Windows computers typically include USB and HDMI connectors, as well as a smart-card reader and Ethernet port. As of this writing, desktop Macs still have Ethernet jacks, but laptops do not.
Another big difference between Mac and Window is the level of security you can expect from viruses and other unwanted intrusions. Because the vast majority of the world’s computers run Microsoft Windows, most attacks focus on these. Malware like Trojans, which trick users into installing them by pretending to be something desirable, like anti-virus programs and botnets, which quietly enlist computers into an army of zombie machines designed to distribute spam or advertise fraud, are now common threats to PCs, but more rarely harm Macs.
This doesn’t mean that Mac users should completely ignore security. As Macs claim a gain market share, these threats have increased. And just as legitimate developers have created cross-platform apps, cross-platform malware has also become more common. However, there is still some truth to, as one observer puts it, “a Mac owner who runs no security software is vastly less likely to be the victim of a successful attack than a Windows user who’s protected up to his eyeballs.”
One of the most frequently cited differences between Macs and Windows is price. Few Mac products sell for less than $1,000, while there are many Window models that fall within that price range. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Macs are more expensive than Windows with similar specifications. Rather, in general, Apple has chosen to build its Mac line around higher-end computers with better — and more costly — components. The company has said on many occasions that it can make less-expensive computers, but that would affect the customer experience and Apple won’t allow that.
The problem with comparing prices between Macs and Windows is that the computers are rarely comparable. Even if you did find two computers with the same processor speed, RAM, hard-drive capacity, graphics, memory, number of USB ports, and so on, each machine would be preinstalled with vastly different software packages. The user may have to purchase additional software for whatever computer he or she chooses, like a virus program for a Windows or Microsoft Office for a Mac. The bottom line is this: The relative value of a Mac or Window really depends on the consumer’s needs.
If you just need a computer to perform basic functions like web surfing or word processing, it might be hard to justify buying a Mac. There are plenty of PC choices out there that are less expensive. This is where Linux fans can chime in — even someone unfamiliar with the Linux operating system can buy a cheap computer, install a simple Linux distribution and access basic computer functions. And this also explains the jump in Chromebook sales, as they’re inexpensive computers meant to handle everyday tasks.
In the end, the choice of Window or Mac depends upon you more than anything else. Declaring that one is better than the other is like saying oranges are better than — well, you know.