by Bob Walters | January 01, 2008

We enjoy the banter of the Mac vs. PC commercials, but what are the real underlying issues in deciding what the right computer choice is for you as a meeting planner? One of the overriding criteria in years past -- software availability -- isn’t as significant as it used to be.

Operating System

Apple began selling Macintosh computers with Intel chips in 2006, which means any new Mac purchased since then offers the option of running both Mac OS X and Windows XP or Vista. In other words, you can boot your Mac under the Windows operating system and run your Windows-based programs, yet still have the full features and functionality of the Mac OS when you want it. Many users think it’s the best of both worlds and a solution to the age-old problem of having to use Macs for graphics and creative programs and PCs for business applications.

Last fall, Apple released its latest operating system, Mac OS X Leopard (10.5). Built in is an application called Boot Camp, which walks users through the process of installing and using Windows. Leopard also has some features that are similar to those in Windows Vista, in terms of file management, backup and the ability to arrange and view files in groups.

Boot Camp allows you to run a Mac in either Windows or Leopard, but not simultaneously; you’ll need to reboot to switch operating systems. If you want to run both operating systems side-by-side, you’ll have to purchase additional software such as VMware Fusion ($79.99; or Parallels Desktop ($79.99; Of course, you’ll also have to buy Windows if you want to run it (Vista, $99.95 to $259.95;


I asked a number of Mac users the key reason they prefer a Mac, and their answers were strikingly similar. “It just works!” was number one, and “I don’t have to worry about viruses” was a close second.

Anyone who has installed a new piece of hardware in the PC world can appreciate the fact that there are two distinct definitions of “plug-n-play.” In the Mac world, it means what it says: You plug it in and it works. The process has improved for PCs, but there still are numerous situations for which you have to install new drivers or test different devices to get something to work.

Browsing the Web

Using Mac-based browsers with some websites and content management systems designed for Microsoft Internet Explorer presents occasional difficulties, but newer releases of Firefox and Safari appear to work better -- and with dual operating systems, you can always switch to Windows and run Explorer.

Packaged Prices

When purchasing a Mac, you have some basic options with each model, primarily with respect to memory and disk size. If you are buying a notebook, like the MacBook Pro, you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,000. A MacPro desktop starts at around $2,500, and the all-in-one iMac (the envy of all PC owners) starts at $1,200.

Customer Service

You might find that a Mac will meet all of your needs, both from the creative and number-crunching perspectives. One aspect to keep in mind: Cracks are beginning to show in Apple’s reputation for customer support and

In fact, Apple’s customer satisfaction level has dropped from 83 percent in 2006 to 79 percent in 2007, according to a survey of 1,500 customers by TechnoMetrica Intelligence ( But that’s still pretty good. By comparison, HP’s satisfaction level is at 76 percent; Dell’s is at 75 percent.

Bob Walters,based in Battle Creek, Mich., is founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.