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  Mac or PC at Home?  
  Apple’s sexy iMacs are competing with Windows PCs for desk space in schools—and in your home.  
     
  BY SIMON DUMENCO  
     
 

The choice used to be pretty easy: If you had a kid and you were shopping for a home computer, you got a Mac because schools were all about Macs. Teachers loved them (they were easy to set up and support), kids adored them (the Mac interface was friendlier and more intuitively designed), and there was plenty of educational Mac software.

All of that’s still true, but the Mac’s share of the educational market, which has been on the wane for years, has lately dropped to less than half that of dominant Dell’s. And since, like Dell, all the other runners-up make PCs that run the Microsoft Windows operating system (only Apple makes machines that run Apple’s operating system), the educational market is now skewed 85 percent toward Windows. It’s Bill Gates’s world, and we all just learn in it.

Is your child, then, at a disadvantage if he or she attends a school that uses Macs? Are you a bad parent if you’re seduced—as many parents are—by the unmatched aesthetic superiority of iMacs (those all-in-one flat-screen units are irresistible) and the ease-of-use of the latest Mac operating system (which has earned rapturous reviews from the technical press)?

Nah. Windows was inspired by Mac’s operating system, and most kids (unlike some adults) won’t have any problem moving back and forth between the two. Also, you can buy Windows-emulation software called Virtual PC (about $220 from your local computer store, or visit connectix.com), which will let you run most Windows software on your Mac. (Sorry, there’s no such thing as Mac-emulation software for PCs.)

Even if you end up with a mix of Macs and PCs, the good news is that the latest update of Mac’s operating system—version 10.2, nicknamed “Jaguar”—lets you effortlessly share files between them. One more thing: Apple computers (which have been referred to as the “BMWs of computers”) used to be priced considerably higher than comparable PCs, but those new iMacs, starting at $1,299, are competitively priced. And for students just starting out doing homework research on the Web (not to mention all that IMing and e-mailing), the $799 eMac—packed with Apple’s most popular applications—is a great bargain.

 
     
 
From the Fall 2003 edition of the New York Family Guide
 
     
     
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