Nanoman.ca

Nanoman's Company Support

Personal Computer Comparisons

In our experience, the vast majority of people would be better served by a UNIX computer than by a Microsoft or Apple computer. People considering switching between these three types of systems typically want to know what to expect from each, so we've written comparisons to help inform their decision.

For our comparisons, we've selected the criteria that we've been asked about most frequently. Our analyses are based on our professional experiences and knowledge.

Summary

If you absolutely must use hardware and/or software that matches all of the following criteria:

  • won't work natively on non-Microsoft systems
  • doesn't have a version for non-Microsoft systems
  • won't work through an emulator on non-Microsoft systems
  • doesn't have a non-Microsoft equivalent

... then you would probably need a Microsoft computer. We don't expect our customers to know if their hardware and/or software matches all of these criteria, so this is something we determine during our inspections.

If you require either of the following:

  • the full functionality of almost any modern Apple hardware
  • a computer that you can buy and start using immediately with minimal tailoring

... then you would probably need an Apple computer. Some customers have Apple hardware that they don't actually need to connect to their personal computers, so this is something we check during our inspections.

For everything else, you would probably be better served by a UNIX computer.

Comparisons

CriteriaMicrosoftAppleUNIX
Ethics More concerned with profit than anything else, Microsoft is reviled as one of the great evils of the computer industry. Microsoft has betrayed their users by collaborating with the NSA and possibly others. Microsoft has worked with the Chinese government to implement Internet censorship. Microsoft deliberately locks users into their own closed-source and proprietary systems. There are other ethical problems too. More concerned with profit than anything else. Apple has betrayed their users by collaborating with the NSA and possibly others. Apple knowingly deals with companies that are infamous for their child labour practices. Apple deliberately locks users into their own closed-source and proprietary systems. There are other ethical problems too. Generally excellent. For most UNIX developers, doing things "the correct way" takes precedent over profit.
Environmental Impact Due to excessive and compounding code bloat in Microsoft software, upgrading to a new version of their operating system sometimes forces you to replace your whole computer, even if the tasks you'll be performing will remain the same. This results in a lot of wasted hardware, packaging, et cetera. To upgrade to a new version of their operating system, Apple sometimes forces you to replace your whole computer, even if your hardware is capable of supporting it. This results in a lot of wasted hardware, packaging, et cetera. Their manufacturing process has become considerably less toxic, but has a lot of room for improvement. The need for hardware upgrades is relatively rare, and there are more environmentally friendly hardware manufacturers and suppliers available.
Security Closed-source and notoriously terrible. Security vulnerabilities are being discovered constantly, and it can take weeks or longer to patch them, mainly because Microsoft is the only company with access to their source code. Microsoft has been unwilling to publish transparency reports, and they collaborated with the NSA through the nefarious "PRISM" surveillance program. Closed-source, so you must assume it's bad. Apple has been unwilling to publish transparency reports, and they collaborated with the NSA through the nefarious "PRISM" surveillance program. Open-source and typically excellent.
Data Recovery If your data is stored in Microsoft's closed-source software, then you should expect that it won't survive major problems like bad sectors. Even under normal operating conditions, Microsoft's data storage formats occasionally become inexplicably corrupted, as any professional who has had to support Microsoft Outlook can attest. If you value your data, then don't store it in Microsoft software. Regardless, always ensure that you have backups. If your data is stored in Apple's closed-source software, then you should expect that it won't survive major problems like bad sectors. If you value your data, then don't store it in Apple software. Regardless, always ensure that you have backups. Generally good because it's open-source. Regardless, always ensure that you have backups.
Stability Extremely bad. Crashing is frequent and inexplicable. Rebooting is regularly required, even if no major system changes have occurred. A system redo is typically required every six months to one year. Excellent. Excellent.
Forward Compatibility Microsoft sometimes ends support for software or functionality that is depended on by their users, and because it's closed-source, there's no guarantee you can get it back. Apple sometimes ends support for software or functionality that is depended on by their users, and because it's closed-source, there's no guarantee you can get it back. Excellent because it's open-source.
Compatibility with Non-Apple Third-Party Hardware Generally excellent. Pretty good, but always research before purchasing to avoid buying paperweights. Pretty good, but always research before purchasing to avoid buying paperweights.
Compatibility with Apple Hardware Apple offers limited support for Microsoft operating systems, so you can expect most things to work, but some will not. Just as you'd expect, modern Apple computers are compatible with modern Apple hardware. Minimal. While standard files and protocols like email and web browsing will work as expected, automated synchronization, software support, and other things proprietary to Apple probably won't.
POSIX Compliance Not native, but available through third-party extensions. Excellent. Excellent.
File/Protocol Standards Compliance Usually ranges from poor to terrible, but this can be corrected using third-party software. Usually excellent, but not always. This can be corrected using third-party software. Generally excellent.
Compatibility with Non-Microsoft Third-Party Software Lots available for almost any task. Lots available for almost any task, but research is almost always required. Lots available for almost any task, but research is almost always required.
Compatibility with Microsoft Software Just as you'd expect, modern software written for Microsoft operating systems will probably be compatible with a Microsoft computer. Not a Microsoft operating system, so you can't expect it to run any Microsoft software. It's sometimes possible through an emulator, but you'll otherwise be dependent on the developer to release an Apple-compatible version. Not a Microsoft operating system, so you can't expect it to run any Microsoft software. It's sometimes possible through an emulator, but you'll otherwise be dependent on the developer to release a UNIX-compatible version.
Performance Extremely bad. Code bloat, virus scanners, and other factors cause it to run significantly slower than one would expect from its hardware. Excellent. Excellent.
Scalability Terrible. Microsoft has multiple tiers of operating system versions, each with various and arbitrary restrictions, even in the most expensive tier. Even home users will sometimes find the operating system unable to keep up with their needs. Even if the tier was designed for a particular purpose, code bloat often requires the user to purchase considerably more powerful hardware just to perform certain tasks. For more demanding users like large organizations, using Microsoft is highly impractical. All of these problems are compounded by its closed-source nature. More than enough for the average user, but its closed-source nature limits what's possible for more demanding users like large organizations. Practically unlimited because it's open-source.
Energy Efficiency Extremely bad. Code bloat, virus scanners, and other factors cause it to use significantly more electricity than other systems. Excellent. Excellent.
Setup Most of what you need is installed and working when you first take it out of the box, but you can expect it to come with a lot of unwanted/unnecessary software and configuration settings. Many users find the initial setups unusable, and will seek professional support to clean it up. Most of what you need is installed and working when you first take it out of the box. In Canada, it's very difficult to find a desktop computer that comes with a UNIX-based operating system pre-installed. You will need to get a copy of the operating system you want, install it on the computer, and make sure everything is working accordingly. If you don't know how to do this, then you will probably have to seek professional support.
Interface Consistency Varies drastically from version to version, along with many fundamental concepts. Almost identical from computer to computer. Can vary drastically between systems, but the fundamental concepts are generally the same across all systems, and visual changes between versions are relatively rare.
User-Friendliness Some things are easy to discern, while others are not, and the complexity of the task you're trying to perform doesn't indicate what your experience will be. Microsoft changes their layout unnecessarily frequently, so there is little consistency between operating system versions, and users often have to spend an inordinate amount of time looking through submenus and wizards to find what they want. In an effort to make things appear simple, Apple often makes things less intuitive. Typically, they do this by removing visual queues, and trusting that the user will know or deduce the special keystrokes or mouse clicks required to achieve the desired action. Virtually all common user tasks are easy to discern.
Closing Programs Click the "Close" button in the program window. Programs will continue to run in the background if you merely click the "Close" button in the program window. To actually close a program, you must first go to the program window to display the program menu, and then either press Command+Q on the keyboard or select "Quit" from the program menu. Click the "Close" button in the program window.
Customization Closed-source, so if it doesn't look and function exactly as you want, it might never. Closed-source, so if it doesn't look and function exactly as you want, it might never. Open-source, so virtually anything is possible.
Maintenance Very time-consuming and tedious. A user can typically expect to spend upwards from half an hour interacting with it every week, not including the hour or more that is typically required for the maintenance processes to complete. Very easy. Very easy.
Hardware Serviceability Generally easy to disassemble. If you need professional support, then you can get it at a reasonable price from almost any computer store (Apple Stores excluded). Disassembling an Apple computer is typically very difficult, even for experienced professionals. If you need professional support and aren't near an Apple Store, then you may have to try a few different computer stores before finding one that can help you, and you should expect to pay a premium. Generally easy to disassemble. If you need professional support, then you can get it at a reasonable price from almost any computer store (Apple Stores excluded).
Professional Support for Software Available from almost any computer store (Apple Stores and UNIX shops excluded), but varies from terrible to excellent, as does the price. If you aren't near an Apple Store, then you might have to try a few different computer stores before finding one that can help you. Support is generally very good, but you should expect to pay a premium. Generally excellent, but it can be very difficult to find, especially at a reasonable price.
New Laptop Cost Approximately $200 CAD plus tax for a basic model, or about $700 CAD plus tax for a model with hardware comparable to an Apple Macbook Air. $1199 CAD plus tax for the cheapest Macbook Air from Apple Canada's Online Store. Approximately $200 CAD plus tax for a basic model, or about $700 CAD plus tax for a model with hardware comparable to an Apple Macbook Air.

Notes

  • These comparisons are based on the professional experiences and knowledge of Nanoman's Company from 1994 to present. Your results may vary.
  • Nanoman's Company began phasing out support for Microsoft products in 2002. Effective 2010-01-01, Nanoman's Company no longer supports any Microsoft products.
  • Nanoman's Company began phasing out support for Apple products on 2018-10-06. For more information, please see our "End of Support for Apple Products" page.
  • For these comparisons, "UNIX" refers to a typical UNIX-based or UNIX-like operating system running Xfce or other popular desktop environment.
  • Comparisons are ordered first by criteria that everyone should consider a priority (ethics, security, et cetera), followed by compatibility, performance, user experience, servicing, and concluding with direct financial costs.
  • System columns are ordered by the typical results of global market share estimates. Regional market shares will vary.