While everyone has seen the amusing Mac versus PC television commercials, school administrators actually have to make the decision about which platform to use. Though nearly every school district has already made that decision on some level, the rise in popularity of the iPad and iPhone have forced some formerly PC-only school districts to reconsider their loyalties.
Both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses, and it's important to understand those before you decide whether to buy Macs, PCs or a combination of both. This article won’t lay out a definitive answer to the Mac or PC question. Instead, it will give you the tools to make an informed choice.
A Mac is an Apple-made computer that runs Apple’s operating system. The Mac line includes laptops called MacBooks as well as iMacs, Mac minis and others. For the sake of this article, a PC is a computer running Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Yes, technically a PC can run Linux or even Android, but those are not likely to be common in a school system.
No matter how you look at it, buying Macs costs more than buying PCs. Even with Apple offering a just-below $1,000 iMac specifically for the education market, that's still nearly double the cost of buying a basic PC. Because Apple makes its own computers, if you want a Mac you have to buy one from them. In contrast, dozens of companies make PCs. It’s certainly possible to buy an expensive PC, but mid-level or basic models simply costs less than basic Macs. In some ways Apple makes up for this by having its computers remain useful longer, but that advantage has decreased in recent years.
There is significantly more software made exclusively for Windows than there is for Macs. Most popular programs are available for both, but PCs have an advantage in overall software volume.
Certain professions such as video editing, photo editing and graphic design tend to involve Macs. Most offices and professional jobs require the use of PCs. In many ways this is silly, as most programs used in these areas (even video editing) have versions for both Mac and PC.
PCs get viruses and Macs don’t. That statement remains mostly true. Macs are very rarely prone to viruses, while battling these bugs is a challenge for PCs – specifically shared PCs with Internet access.
Macs integrate well with iPads and iPhones, both of which are becoming more prevalent in many schools. That said, while Macs offer the ideal integration solution, Apple has made iTunes available on PCs. It's therefore not impossible, or even difficult, to use iPads in a school that has PCs. There is, however, no Windows device that has reached anywhere near the penetration of the iPad.
Many would argue that although Apple makes a better computer, students are more likely to encounter PCs when they enter “the real world.” In reality, the differences between Macs and PCs are not that great, aside from the minor matter of users adjusting to the change in operating system.