Mac is superior in the workplace, but often falls victim to misconceptions

As a self-employed small business owner, my computers are an integral part of my day-to-day operations. Not only do I use them to create content for my clients, I use them for all my accounting, customer database, time management, communications and research needs. With every aspect of my business dependent upon them, it's critical that my computers operate smoothly with as little downtime as possible. If they stop working, I stop working - and that costs me money. That's why I only trust my business to Mac and OS X.

Surprisingly, I find myself in the minority. There is a much too common misconception that only Windows-based PCs can serve as business machines. Nothing could be further from the truth. From my observations, three widely-mistaken beliefs seem to account for this.

Pocketbook paranoia

Scanning through current computer ads, it's easy to see how one could come to believe that Macs are too expensive when contemplating a new computer system. For considerably less money than it would cost to buy an entry-level Mac, one can purchase a new Windows PC with more power, memory, storage, and a 'free' throwaway inkjet printer, tossed in for good measure. However, these bargain basement computers are cheaper than Macs for a very good reason: they're junk.

Like the free inkjet printer that may not outlive its first ink cartridge, these cheap PCs are assembled with low-quality components and any savings in purchase price can quickly be lost not only in service calls and component replacement. But more importantly, downtime for your business. Macs, like any mass-produced consumer goods, are not entirely immune from problems and malfunctions. However, in all the years that I've owned and used Macs, I've never had an Apple hardware problem. I realize this has been partly due to good fortune on my part, but Apple can take most of the credit because of its innovative hardware designs and commitment to quality products.

Moreover, if you compare better-built brand name PCs similarly equipped to Macs, you'll find the price disparity vanishes. When it comes to computers, the adage that you get what you pay for is certainly true. One shouldn't forget value when considering price. When you purchase a Mac, you're buying a better-built machine and a better computing experience with many more features.

Software seclusion

The belief that there isn't much software available for Macs is due to the fact that one can't turn around without bumping into Windows software everywhere. It's readily available in office supply outlets, department stores, drug stores, and even in cereal boxes at the local grocery. Mac software, on the other hand, doesn't share this high consumer visibility. Nonetheless, there's no shortage of Mac software available on the web, and you can order or download much of it in less time than it would take to travel to a local retailer.

Apple advertises that over 10,000 titles are now available for OS X alone, and it should be noted that not only are most of the major software titles available for both platforms but also that the Mac versions are often superior. An article from Time magazine earlier this year proclaimed that Office 2004 for Mac is "clearly superior to its PC counterpart for most users." This is true of a lot of applications because Apple provides software developers with the tools to take advantage of the Mac's advanced operating system and finely tuned user interface in their programming.

Beyond the multitude of native Mac software, VirtualPC, a Microsoft application, allows you to install a Windows OS on your Mac and run it in a window on your desktop. This allows you to use any Windows program when there truly is no Mac equivalent. Unfortunately for Windows users, there is no VirtualMac to grant them access to OS X and the great software available only for it.

Platform harmony

When it comes to Mac compatibility with Windows, Apple has done a magnificent job. Macs read and produce standard file formats and exchanging documents with a PC can be done in any of the ways that PCs share files. With this built in compatibility, interacting with Windows machines is a non-issue. Moreover, Macs are extremely adept at connecting to Windows networks, and the current version of Microsoft Office for Mac comes with a compatibility checker so that you can tailor your office files to suit any version of Office that your PC or Mac counterparts might be using.

But folks, that's not all

In addition to the points discussed above, there are a number of great reasons to choose Mac over Windows for business. First, Mac OS X sits upon a rock solid Unix foundation. This makes OS X extremely stable and secure, protecting users from both untimely system crashes and hackers. Since adopting OS X almost a year ago, I've experienced zero crashes, zero freezes and zero problems. It's truly astounding, and the reliability of OS X alone is worth moving your business to Mac.

Secondly, there are no viruses targeting OS X users. According to a recent article in Macworld, viruses haven't been an issue for Mac users since 2001 because writing viruses for Mac isn't as easy as it is for Windows. In fact, OS X is so secure, Macworld reports, that "many of the FBI security folks back at FBI HQ use Macs running OS X, since those machines can do just about anything . . . and they're secure right out of the box." So, OS X lets you get more work done as you don't waste time dealing with viruses and security problems.

Thirdly, Apple's user interface is both more finely tuned and intuitive than Windows. Since the first Mac, Microsoft has always played copycat to Apple's graphical user interface and Windows lags 10 years behind in terms of ease of use and functionality. With the next version of Windows not scheduled for release until 2006, there is no indication that Microsoft will catch up anytime soon. In fact, based on Apple's recent preview of Tiger, the next release of OS X, it appears the gap will grow even wider as Tiger promises to dramatically redefine and improve the way users manage their ever-growing file libraries and allow them to work even more efficiently.

Together, a Mac and OS X provide a wonderfully stable and secure environment for business computing. In future columns, I hope to explore this topic in-depth as the advantages of using a Mac are many. If you're already running your business on a Mac, I'd love to hear what advantages you've discovered and any other issues you may have come across. Please contact me using the link below.