“If you're a graphic designer, then you probably like Macs. Maybe they appeal to arty types because they look so pretty. To be fair though, they're well supported here in this tiny little niche. So if you're a graphic designer, you'd probably be okay with a Mac. But if you're not, they're not well supported, so there's no point choosing one over, say, a Windows PC instead...
It is true that traditionally, graphic designers, and other similar creative types, have favoured the Mac platform. And as such, that area of work is well supported on the Mac platform which further enhances it as the creatives' choice of computer.
But does that mean a Mac is not suitable for anything other than creative uses?
Once upon a time, back in the early days of the micro computer, there emerged many computing platforms. Business use was the most obvious focus to start with. These machines were still quite expensive and rather unfriendly to use compared to what we know of today. But soon to follow were micro computers that were much much cheaper, became much more user-friendly, and were designed to fit into the home environment. Thus was the emergence of the home computer.
While there were some overlapping in what environments these early computers were popularly used in e.g. Amiga in video production, Atari ST in the music studio, Acorn in the classroom their pricing, compact designs, and ability to connect to a standard television set made them ideal for the home.
Apple and IBM?
You may note that two companies missing from this list are Apple and IBM. Each made micro computers, but their prices and/or form factors made them less suitable for home usage. The Apple II and IBM PC were primarily machines for business.
Apple soon followed with their Lisa and Macintosh ranges. And while now much more user-friendly, they were still so much more expensive than home computers of the time, and as such, their focus remained on that of business use. But what they did add, was more emphasis on graphics, reinforced with a new type of operating system in the form of a graphical user interface.
This ease of use and capability brought the Macintosh in particular to the attention of the then niche business of computerised graphic design. Other platforms would quickly follow with similar GUI interfaces, but Apple had already got its toe in the water. The Mac was the platform of choice for the graphic designer that would largely continue to this day.
See reason 10
The fall of the home computer
Time goes by, and Apple's Mac and IBM's PC platform gained capability beyond that of 'lesser' platforms, operating systems that didn't require a computing degree to work, and above all, reduced in price to a level individuals could afford. This all had the inevitable effect of the traditional home computer makers, one by one, dropping by the wayside (or becoming PC 'cloners'), taking their home computing platforms with them.
The home computer was dead; long live the personal computer.
All this time, the IBM's now 'cloned' PC platform remained entrenched in the corporate world, and the Macintosh had cornered the creative industries, with a little overlap each way. But now, there was a big gap left in the home that needed to be filled. With these former business machines now at prices and capability that could fill the home computing role, the Windows based PC, and to a lesser extend, the Macintosh, stepped up to the plate.
Meanwhile, back to the present...
So, back to today. In the corporate world, the PC is still king. In the creative industries, the Mac still holds the reins. So if the Mac is only for graphic designers, then is the PC only for accountants?
The answer is of course, no. Each is capable of use in the other's traditional strongholds, and each is capable of filling the home role. Which to choose simply comes down to preference, and which fits your software and hardware priorities best.
It should be of note however, when you look at where Microsoft and Apple focusses their products today. Arguably, Apple have focussed much more at the consumer as of late, in contrast to Microsoft whose primary focus still understandably appears to be appeasing their corporate customer base.
Perhaps something to bear in mind when choosing a computing platform.
So in summary...
...Graphic design is a traditional Mac strength, and is indeed quite popular for this use. But just as business use is a traditional Windows strength, there's no inherent reason why either cannot be used for anything by anyone. There are perhaps niches where Windows is better supported, but for the kind of uses most folk need of a computer, a Mac is just as valid of a choice as any other computing platform.
Page content last updated 8 September 2010