Apple or PC?

I am in the market for a notebook computer to use for University. I will be using it for research, writing papers (word/excel), sometimes taking notes in class, music, some photo editing, the odd DVD on trips, and internet surfing. It must be around a 12" and under 5 pounds with good battery life. I have been reading and it's my understanding mac OS X is a more stable operating system and that it is more secure from spy-ware and virusus. They also have 128Bit enscryption I hear as well. The powerbook 12" model looks perfect for my needs but my buddy who is a computer guru says macs are only good for photo editing and I will run into compatibility issues with the mac becasue they dont use a system registry or something like that. What should I do?
Get the Apple. Your loss in forgoing the PC is that you are going to deny yourself 80% of all independant software unless you get some software that allows you to run Microsoft-based systems on your laptop. This can be annoying for a number of reasons.

If you can get past the above then you will find with the Apple that all software is seamless with the Apple and you won't find yourself stressing over all of the conflicts in a PC that should be really simple but that are always in conflict. Just doing documents in different programs like word perfect and Microsoft word can be annoying.

The Apple notebook gets great reviews. I have been running OS X since the first week that the Apple G5 became available and, yes I did experience some software degradations. The amazing thing was that I was able to re-install the original operating system without spending the evening re-customizing and re-installing everything that I had added over the years. I was also able to upgrade the Panther operating system the same way with no extra work whatsoever.

You will be getting lots of other advice hereabouts as the PC people have many really valid points, too.
Be prepared for strong opinions on both sides of this. It will be obvious from the responses that this is a religious issue, not a technical one.

Having said that, I can give you a very personal recommendation. I use both operating systems, myself, I've got a PC laptop as my main machine and both a desktop PC and desktop Mac at home. I've managed for a long time the end-user technology issues for a group of more than three hundred people, most of whom use PC's and the rest Macs. I know exactly what the support and maintenance costs for both platforms are, in both dollars and staff time, because I have to budget for them.

For anyone who wants to do the kinds of things you say you're interested in, the choice for me is clear. The Mac is going to be much, much easier to use, especially for music and image management. As a company, Apple has better customer satisfaction than any other, by a considerable margin. Your satisfaction with a platform is going to have more to do with the software than the hardware and Apple's applications are still dramatically more intuitive and elegant than any of the PC copies of them.

Compatibility issues are actually quite rare. Again, there may be a specific application that you must have a PC for but, for the average person, that's not an issue. Our folks happily exchange Word, Excel, graphics and Powerpoint files across platforms with no problems, whatsoever.

If your computer guru is willing to be on call 24/7 to deal with your issues then the PC might be an okay choice. If he's not, I'd go with your idea of the 12" iBook. It's an amazing machine for the money and the bundled applications, iPhoto, iTunes, etc., are genuinely fun to use.
I just bailed pc notebooks (IBM & DELL) for the Apple iBook G4 a few weeks's a bit different in the way that it does things so I have a bit of learning to do...but I like it more and I'm not looking back nor do I regret the purchase.

When I lived in Seattle I had LOTS of friends in the computer industry...they all worked on PC's but always told me that they felt Apple was a better computer as they write their own protocols (whatever that means)

I went to Best Buy looking at laptops...they sold Apple but only through the website and had none on display at the store...I looked at all the PC's for a few hours walking back and forth & to & fro...had they actually had an iBook on display...I'll be willing to bet that PC sales at the store would drop considerably.
An important question is, which platform does your university recommend? Your life will probably be a lot easier if you can go to the campus tech support office for help when you need it.

If the school doesn't have a strong bias, or doesn't provide much support, I'd go Apple. I'm a freelance writer/editor, and do very little other than word processing, so I could use either platform. But I use Macs because, as a freelancer, I have to be my own tech support--or else pay by the hour for it. And Macs need a lot less tech support.
I have three Apple computers, one of which is a 17" PowerBook.

All the comments before mine are valid, but I would like to remind everyone that Microsoft offers "Office" for Macintosh and with it, you can run Word, Excel and all the other terrific Win programs with equal ease as a PC based laptop.

As for comments about spyware and virus.

My son is a computer science major, and as smart as he is about software and PC's (his system), he has to regularly clean out his drive, ridding it of these invaders. He says these can be picked up through email, downloading games and imbedded in music downloads. However, with active housekeeping you can keep the system running fine. He says there are free programs that will eliminate these problems.

I think Mac's are pretty much free of these, have visited Mcafee and Symantec and allowed them to probe my computer, looking for access and the report comes back that not only are ports "closed" they are in "stealth."

Here is a quote from a discussion about these issues:

Spyware is third-party software installed without your permission that transmits information you assume is private. Windows PC users are all-too familiar with the problems presented by spyware applications that display browser ads, or that reset the browser to a different home page. While these issues do not affect Mac users, you may find that some Web browser cookies fall under this broad definition of spyware. You can maintain your privacy on a shared Mac by clearing the browser history, removing all cookies, clearing downloads, and emptying the cache.

While virus issues are similarly less frequent on a Mac than on a PC, it is wise to run antivirus software - particularly if you run Microsoft applications on your Mac.
I agree wth all the above, I bought a MAC when XP came out as my old PC was shot, I have never looked back! I just ordered the 12" Powerbook fully decked out, and you as a student can go to apple's website, or likely an Apple store and get the student discount, it took off ~10%.

I also use Microsoft Office, and if you want to take notes, the new Office 2004 will allow you flexibility to record and take notes at the same time.... would have been great for med school!

I guess my final thought is just buy it, spyware won't slow you down, viruses are almost non existatn on MAC, and let's face it, they even look cooler!
Mac rules! Your question ist like: BMW or Hyundai - you'd ALWAYS want the BMW right?
Seriously: OS X (Panther) is the best operating system, you can forget about viruses and stuff like that, everything is so easy and selfexplaining and the design is just......well perfect.
BTW - I use Windows PCs in my job so I know what I am talking about and I daily know what I have in my Apple computers when returning home.
Good luck!
Mac. I use the Powerbook 12 inch. It is 100% reliable. I also have Dells in my home and at work as well.

Just get Microsoft Office, Apple Extreme, max the memory and get an 80GB hard drive. Rockin

And I tunes is pretty cool too.
Until apple lowers there prices on desktops and laptops. the pc is the best buy and most compatible with all aftermarket products and 90% of the marketshare. microsoft xp and windows xp are by far the most used. if you buy a laptop make sure you get the largest harddrive you can afford and a all in one dual dvd-cd burner combo drive.

I have a 12" Powerbook with the superdrive and an 80 gig hard drive. I also upgraded the memory. I have Microsoft Office. I use it for everything from writting orders for work to IPhoto and Itunes. When I travel I can watch movies on the DVD player which is a nice bonus. With Microsoft Office I can create and receive Excel and Word documents from any computer. I also have a G5 with a very cool 20" flatscreen at work. We have a dell at home and there are always issues, it is never smooth. I can't think of a better laptop. Yes, they do cost a little more but what you get back in terms of ease of operation is priceless. Just one mac users opinion!
A recent article in Macworld indicated that there have been more than ~160,000 viruses written for Windows and only ~60-70 for Macs. I use both platforms at work, but I highly prefer OSX because of its stability.
Aida...nice car analogy!...let me take it a step further as it was explained to me by a computer guru friend in Seattle.

Apple -

BMW made with all BMW parts

Inexpensive PC Clones -

(Especilly when you have a cheap ass computer savvy friend offer to "build" you a pc using parts from is really nothing more than a Hyundai with a rebuilt Ford Escort engine shoehorned in alongside the also rebuilt Chevy Astrovan transmission.
Apple it wise, I heard apple is better...they use a standard 128bit enscryption, is this true? Also, Security is a BIG thing for me and I always like to take it one step further in protecting my information, what programs are out there that can protect me from the best of hackers (government) harnessing into my computer and spying?
Looks like the Mac heads have spoken; they're always really vocal about the Macs' advantages. I might be a little biased, being an Apple dealer, but our customers are happy, well adjusted people who don't freak out every time a new virus makes the rounds or drives are getting hacked from network connections. When's the last time you heard someone say that they just love their Dell?
Use PC's at work, but been a Mac user at home since '94. On my 3rd PowerBook - great machine/OS. For the needs you describe, get a Mac and don't look back. You'll be very, very happy with it.
Even though there are hordes of viruses for Windows programs floating around, the Apple software is actually more vulnerable in terms of holes in the operating system. If someone wanted to be really malicious and write viruses suited to each type of operating system, it would be easier for them to "destroy" an Apple computer than it would for them to "whack up" a fully updated Windows based PC system. This doesn't happen very often though because those that are writing viruses are trying to attack the most computers that they can at one time. Given that Mac's are but a very small percentage of all computers sold and operated for personal use, they are basically overlooked by the hackers and malicious malcontents.

Having said that, the other folks have pointed out the lack of compatability of software with a Mac based system. Depending on your specific needs, this may or may not be important to you. If it isn't important, and with all of the above in mind, i would probably go with a Mac if looking for a laptop. Everyone i know with a Mac laptop is happy with it whereas most with Windows based PC's want to hit their with a hammer, regardless of make or model. Sean
PC / DOS / Windows user since DOS 2.0 Number of viruses contracted: ZERO (number of years using antivirus and security products - 16-18 or so, since the early DOS versions of McAfee virus scan) I've also owned and used Macs during my college years.

Currently using: Windows XP and Linux (Suse 9.x) I use these because they're what most of the business world uses, and where the greatest variety of software exists.

Major misconception perpetuated here: Macs aren't immune to virii/spyware, they're just insignificant as targets compared to Windows. Neither is Linux immune. That doesn't make either any more or less "secure", it just makes them more or less "targeted'. This does mean that, as long as this remains true, you have to exercise less vigilance to stay clean when you're not using the more prevalent OS. It means nothing else.

Windows is not necessarily any weaker than the others are ignored. Think about that for a second - the greatest impact for a malware writer is where the greatest userbase lies. This has nothing to do with the superiority of one platform over another.

They all have their merits and their faults. At some point, some computer users realize they could be happy with any of them, as long as they have a basic facility with computers.
Macintosh is the easiest to use, which is a strong and popular selling-point. However, many of the other things you read here and elsewhere about the superiority or inferiority of the different operating systems simply aren't well-considered or factual, and are the naive products of fandom. I see much of this in this thread. I'm a BA in CS and have worked as a Systems Administrator for 10 years - I've used a few computers myself, including lots of them that redefine the concept of ease-of-use in the negative sense. I've less of an opinion now on this question than before I started, because I can see that most of these offerings operate within a pretty tight range of one another, and their similarities are greater than their differences. Compare this with the consumer operating system picture 15 years ago, when the different operating system families couldn't even communicate with one another on the same network without a proverbial act of congress.

My advice would be to go with what your school recommends - that's the best advice, because their recommendation will hopefully based on what is best supported by their IT staff, and best for running any ancillary "curriculum-ware" they're aware of. Either MAC or Windows would be a fine choice, and likely your school will recommend one or the other, or both.
I've been a continuous exclusive mac user since the original 128k mac in 1984. I now have a 14 inch ibook which is actually a bity faster than my 20 inch G4 imac. So I'm quite the committed Mac-oholic.
That said I would add one other element to the discussion. Please also consider what you may plan to do after college. If you are thinking of going into mainstream corporate America, then you may wish to have some familiarity with a PC windows based system.
If your college is Mac friendly, then I would strongly recommend a mac laptop. But it may be wise to also at least spend some time getting familiar with the PC operating system. It may be a poor example but perhaps you could think of it like learning to drive a standard shift car. Although most of my cars have been automatic, I am glad that I learned on a stick. Sometimes, although it may be rare, the only car available is a stick. So if you at least know how to drive a stick car, then you can comfortably drive an automatic knowing that if your are in Europe or the Carribean and need to rent a car, you can drive whatever they have.
MWilson hit it right on the head.

I third MWilson's suggestion of asking your University what they recommend (and it might be specific to your college/school within the University). It's quite possible that the science department would recommend a PC, while the fine arts department would recommend a Mac. But ask. You won't be using the same computer three years from now anyway.
From the research I have done it seems OS X is safer than XP out of box. 128bit encryption, password keychains, all port entries turned off by default, software firewall, Virex.
I have an IBM Thinkpad and Mac G4 Titanium laptop, both are excellent. In addition to the above mentioned items the screen on the Mac is definitely a step up from the IBM particularly noticeable when using photoshop or similar. The battery was better on the IBM when it was new but now the older Mac's battery lasts longer. The support option on the Mac is also excellent. I could live with either machine.

I also have a cheapo dell laptop at work and the screen, keyboard, battery, and ergonomics are no comparison to either the Mac or IBM.
I've been digitally retouching and enhancing famous women's faces and boobs in LA for the last eight years on all sorts of Macs. If it weren't for Apple, I wouldn't be able to afford Audiogon.
As a loyal Mac-Jihadist, I have to agree with the comments regarding Macs being as vulnerable to viruses as PCs.

I've been the victim of a few nasty Apple bugs, and I believe the only reason there aren't more of them is because people that write these little nasties want to effect the largest group they can. With the mass of PCs out there, it's a no-brainer.

Also, since I push around files that get as large as 4-5 gigs when working, I bring my G5 running OSX to its knees quite regularly. On the other hand, when surfing and puttering around in iMovie, iDVD, etc. on my little Cube, it remains quite happy.
FWIW I just got my new Power Book 12" with 8x superdrive, 1.25 Gigs RAM and 100GB hard drive, using student discount, it came to $1900, a lot of computer for that, and I couldn't be happier with it!

I must admit with some of the other posters, depending on your career, you might have to deal with PC's.... I hope for you that isn't the case, if you have the choice, go MAC!!!
Brimac, thank you for your input. It's great to see an Apple dealer here.

That being said, I love my Dell!

However, for me, it's not as simple as that. I use a PC, which also runs MVS (IBM Mainframe) and a Sun Solaris Workstation (Solaris 9 - UNIX) at work, and have owned more than a few Macs as well. My next computer will just about definitely be a Mac.

Rather than look at this in the usual "us versus them" paradigm, since I have to work on a bunch of operating systems, I can see the pluses and minuses of each. The Mac would be a fantastic choice here, which I hope provides you with years of pleasure. But, you aren't going to have a disaster on your hands by running a Windows based PC - they do just fine.
My son, who is a PC guy, ran most of the Microsoft systems, including DOS, Win 95 and 98 and ME. Windows ME was a real stinker for us after owning Win 95.

Must say though, Windows XP Pro is the best thing Gates has done (based on my experience with it). If Apple had failed, as some predicted, that is the system I would have gone with.

As it is, we have the choice of Mac OS9, OS X and Windows XP. Better than ever software programs and at lower cost than what we paid a few years ago.
The Mac is of little interest to the hackers, as yet. It also does not have the backdoor entry problems that MS introduced stupidly.

I am in a department that is primarily Wintel. Macs can work easily with them if they have current software. All of them have to work with software on the server to assure that proper software is being used. When the server goes down so do they. They get very irritated when they see me still working and they cannot.

I think that the Wintels have copied the Mac operating system closely enough that they are now useable. I think also that Apple has cheapened their machines enough to compete on price, but the Department still has rooms of PCs that don't work and a few working macs that are obsolete. I have three macs of various ages. Just today I went into the storage room and found another old mouse as my five year old one failed.
I will be using it for research, writing papers (word/excel), sometimes taking notes in class, music, some photo editing, the odd DVD on trips, and internet surfing.

Hi, sorry I'm late to this thread and haven't had a chance to read the other posts, but if you're doing music and imaging work plus need reliability for school and don't want viruses and all the 'net goodies, GET AN APPLE.

I used various PCs for years and years incuding my college career; one was a PIII laptop that was rather top of the line in its day (and expensive) and they were all just crap. They'd break down for seemingly no reason, were always unstable. I lost papers, you bet. I missed online course posts, yes. The internet did a real number on them, too--I din't yet know about browsers like FireFox and Avant. Also I used to try to do recording work on them and that was always a real PITA. The software never got along with the herdware, the computer didn't like the software OR the hardware, they were glitchy, they'd crash, files would vanish, tracks would get lost, and we had lots of downtime. Worst of all, 2-3 years and they're bunk.

Then I sucked it up and paid the price for a Mac G5 last summer and never looked back. I will never go Windoze again. Even XP seems primitive and unstable compared to OS X. It's just a rock solid and very smooth OS. Absoultely excellent. Macs cost a little mroe but the quality is apparent! If you're an audiophile then you're already used to paying more for a quality piece.

I'll tell you this: in my closet I have two laptops, the aforementioned fancy pants Windows one and an Apple Powerbook from c. 1995 running OS7. The Windows one was glitchy right out of the box and was barely usable after a year and a half; after two and a half years it died completely, a few grand down the tube. The Apple is out of date but still works like a champ!