From: email@example.com (Rich Love)
Subject: Seattle Times Article Mac vs PC
organization: Carnation Software
Computing's Holy War
Published in the Seattle Times, June 18, 1995. Copyright 1995 by Cary Lu.
This article may be freely copied and distributed in paper and electronic
form without charge if this copyright paragraph is included.
By Cary Lu
The battle between proponents of Macintosh and IBM PC computers has
for many years resembled a religious war, and as in all religious wars, much
of the rhetoric has been driven more by ignorance than knowledge.
Very few people are truly skilled with both Macs and PC. Since PCs
outsell Macs by a wide margin--seven to one or more--most people with
computer experience actually know only about DOS and Microsoft Windows on an
IBM PC or clone.
Not surprisingly then, if you ask which computer should you buy, the
most common answer -- from computer sales people, data processing managers,
and newspaper columnists -- is a PC. But before you take that advice, ask if
your adviser actually uses both Macs and PCs.
If he or she knows only one system well, consider the advice suspect.
Steer clear of PC bigots and Mac bigots who use jargon: "Only PCs support
true pre-emptive multitasking and multiple processors." "Only Macs have
dual-channel SCSI for fast disk arrays." These techie issues are irrelevant
for most users; in any event both systems will offer all these features in
the coming months.
Which computer do I recommend? I think you should get the same kind
of computer that your most technically astute friend uses -- a friend you can
call at midnight on Sunday when you really get stuck. If you buy a Mac, you
won't need an expert, since you won't get stuck nearly as often. And if you
don't have a technical friend, you will be much better off with a Mac -- with
some exceptions that I will discuss later.
Is the Mac really that much easier to use? Consider this: One
quarter of all the questions that Patrick Marshall has answered in his Q&A
column in The Seattle Times deals with PC problems that never occur on a
Macintosh users never have to deal with memory management,
interrupts, DMA channels, or a SYSTEM.INI file. Inside a Mac, there are no
jumpers to set, either on the main board or on the vast majority of
PC users have to learn these details or else they can't get software
to run. The computer industry estimates that PC users have trouble running
25-35 percent of multimedia CD-ROMs. I'm accustomed to trouble.
This morning, I installed a CD-ROM for my five-year-old on my Pentium
computer and got a message: "Increase DMABuffer Size." I doubt if most PC
users would know how to respond; what's more, no message explained two
additional problems beyond the DMABuffer size.
Through long experience, I have learned most of the hundreds of
technical tricks necessary to get CD-ROMs running on a PC, although a few
discs still have me stumped.
Surveys show that PC users rarely buy CD-ROMs. A CD-ROM on a PC is
too often like a book with pages glued together or illustrations torn out.
CD-ROM installation problems are almost unheard of on a Mac, aside
from a simple free update for recent system software (Apple's Multimedia
Tuner). Two other problems are easy to understand -- CD-ROMs that need color
won't run on a black-and-white Mac and a few CD-ROMs need more memory than
the simplest Macs have.
I've just answered the bulk of all Mac CD-ROM installation questions.
In the past five years, I have not seen a single incompatible or even
difficult-to-install CD-ROM on a Mac.
Because no one has to learn any tricks, Mac users buy discs without
trepidation. As a result, CD-ROM publishers find that Mac users buy CD-ROMs
out of proportion to the Mac's market share.
David Billstorm, president of Media Mosaic and publisher of Mountain
Biking and other outdoor recreation CD-ROMs, tells me that 40 percent of
sales are for Macs. Yet PC buyers call for technical support far more often
than Mac buyers.
Although both Mac and PC versions have the same price, Media Mosaic
makes more money from the Mac versions because the cost of answering a single
call can wipe out any profit from the sale.
On Christmas day, none of my Mac friends called with problems;
several PC friends called (and each one started by apologizing, "The support
lines aren't open today. . .")
The Mac is not completely free of software conflicts, especially for
enthusiasts who tend to like complexity. But the conflicts are usually
resolved by simply moving clearly labeled icons from one folder to another;
if you make a mistake, you just move the icon back.
On a PC, you must use far more difficult techniques -- editing
cryptic files (WIN.INI, AUTOEXEC, etc.), setting environment variables,
adjusting memory locations, changing command-line switches in drivers. If
you make a mistake, the computer may refuse to start.
In the past year, the hottest new category of Windows software has
been "uninstall" utilities, programs that can remove Windows software.
Windows and Windows software can put dozens or even hundreds of files on a
hard disk; a person can't keep track of the files without help from another
computer program. The Mac neither has nor needs an equivalent utility;
removing a program is usually simple and besides, every file is identified by
its type and the program that created it.
Quite aside from utilities, more software is available for the PC
than for the Mac. You may have a specialized need that can be met only by a
PC, particularly for business applications. In a few areas, particularly
graphics, the Mac leads.
For the vast majority of users, and certainly for anyone buying a
family computer, there is no significant difference in the applications --
word processors and so on -- available for either system.
Microsoft's applications and many other major programs come in both
PC and Mac versions. The PC version may come out first, presumably because
the publisher wants to reach the larger group of customers first.
The real reasons may not be obvious. Aldus (now Adobe) PageMaker, a
program that was originally developed for the Mac, came out in a version 5.0
first for Windows. The project manager explained to me that the programmers
disliked Windows intensely. Aldus management insisted on the Windows version
first, because if the programmers were allowed to finish the Mac version
first, they might never finish the Windows version.
Although the Mac has obvious appeal to the computer novice, the
people who really understand computers also tend to prefer Macs. At the
recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, most of the new,
unfinished multimedia computer software -- even software destined for PCs --
was demonstrated on Macs rather than PCs.
Famed supercomputer designer Seymour Cray uses a Mac. Two division
heads for major PC clone companies called me independently last year; they
were leaving their companies and wanted to know which Macs to buy for their
new startups. I know of three companies in the Portland area started in the
past year by former Intel managers. Two of the three companies chose Macs as
their principal computers. (Intel makes most of the CPU chips, such as the
Pentium, that drive Windows computers.)
Corporate data processing (DP) managers generally prefer PCs; most
have little experience with Macs. PCs do ensure full employment for the DP
At Intel, where many employees are true computer experts, the DP
department figures on one support person for every 30 Windows computers. The
DP department was astonished to learn that one Intel division had 120 Macs
and got along fine with a single support person.
Mac users rarely have problems, and when they do, the answers usually
come from other users rather than from the DP department. The hidden cost of
support -- and perhaps frustration -- at least partially offsets the Mac's
The price gap has narrowed, but it will never close completely. Macs
come with more standard features -- all Macs, including laptops, have sound
and networking built in. Apple has usually -- but not always -- used higher
quality components than the average PC clone.
PC accessories are generally cheaper, but then I've seen a lot of bad
keyboards and fuzzy monitors on PC clones. A good monitor costs the same for
either system. Ultimately, Apple spends more money; it makes major
investments in research and development. For the typical PC clone company,
R&D consists of reading spec sheets from Taiwan.
Macs have a longer useful lifetime. I use a five-year-old Mac to
play today's multimedia CD-ROMs without difficulty. In the past five years on
my PC, I've had to change the CPU twice, the video card twice, the
motherboard twice, and the sound board once, just to play ordinary discs. (I
also switched to double-speed CD-ROM drives on both systems.)
Apple has made many strategic errors. The first Macintosh clones are
only now beginning to appear. Ten years ago, I called for Apple to license
the Mac operating system at a MacWorld Expo keynote panel. Many in the
audience hissed at my remarks. Yet by refusing to license the Mac system
early, Apple made the enormous success of Microsoft Windows possible.
Within the computer industry, the description "more like a Macintosh"
is always high praise. The description "more like Windows" is rarely used as
praise, except perhaps in contrast to "more like DOS."
Microsoft tells everyone that its forthcoming Windows 95 is more like
a Macintosh. The key features of Windows 95 -- long file names,
plug-and-play hardware installation, direct file display -- have been on the
Mac for eleven years. Yet despite much clever engineering by Microsoft,
Windows 95 cannot overcome the chaos inherent to the PC world, both for
hardware and for the need now to run three wildly different operating systems
and application software (for DOS, Windows 3.1, and Windows 95). Mac users
have never had to cope with such jarring changes.
Microsoft's genius lies in getting things to work -- more or less --
despite the PC chaos. Apple's genius lies in getting so many things right in
its fundamental Macintosh design and avoiding chaos.
Cary Lu is a contributing editor to Macworld magazine and writes about PCs
for several other magazines. He is a Windows 95 beta tester. He wrote The
Apple Macintosh Book (Microsoft Press). His e-mail address is
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SCO Files Lawsuit Against IBM
March 7, 2003 - The SCO Group filed legal action against IBM in the State
Court of Utah for trade secrets misappropriation, tortious interference,
unfair competition and breach of contract. The complaint alleges that IBM
made concentrated efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of
UNIX, particularly UNIX on Intel, to benefit IBM's Linux services
business. See SCO v IBM.
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