Oh My God. . .
Is it really worth spewing so much bile, hate and contempt in support of or opposition to one's choice of computer operating system? Never underestimate the motivation inherent in Homo sapiens' "fear of the other." Seeing it spill over in something as trivial as this is just so sad.
Bottom line: Windows works just fine, as does OS X, various flavors of Linux, Solaris and the rest. If they didn't, they wouldn't stay in business for very long. Different companies evince different commercial strategies for bringing their products to market. That's what capitalism is all about. If the company's strategy, products and/or "message" is poorly implemented, the company will fail. This is why Microsoft continues to loose money in all market segments except for OS and Office software, in which it has the monopolist's advantage. Interestingly, Apple's business continues its double digit growth in all three segments of its business, computers, media players and phones. The only other tech company who has come close is IBM, which has a much different business model. I think any unbiased assessment of Apple's growth will have to concede that its success is based on more than just fad or cool factor. Apple sells very good kit, integrates it tightly with a suite of software that covers 90% of what the average PC user needs for his day to day computing activities, and provides customer support that often shames its competitors. Nothing succeeds like success.
Apple does not offer products for every market segment, nor do they claim to. You can say the same for BMW, Bang and Olafson, Barney's, Rolex, Versace, Vera Wang, Fabergee, Godiva Chocolate, and on and on. In some cases, you're paying for the label, in some cases you're paying for the quality, in many cases (as with Apple), you're paying for a bit of both. So what?
I have never really understood why people get so bent out of shape about these things. I have computers running OS X, Windows Vista, Ubuntu and Solaris. Some, I've purchased from Apple and Sun, some I've built myself. They are each purposed differently. They are all useful. They all work. There are things I like about each and hate about each and until the day comes when operating systems can be fully customized to user demand the way hardware can be (sorry penguin fanatics, but Linux still has too many missing puzzle pieces, especially with drivers and games), this will continue to be the case. The ONLY reason to diss another person's choice of computer is to feel smug and superior yourself. Not too flattering.
As regards Macs, they are not for everyone, particularly if you have a constrained budget. The consumer on the cheap will be able to get a functional machine that will meet one's basic needs. That said, the purchase will represent a compromise, the limitations of which may or may not start to irk the purchaser after a while. For me, that sort of compromise is fine in a virtual throw away type computer, like a netbook, but unacceptable for the machine that I spend hours in front of on a daily basis. A Jumbo Jack with onion rings and a Coke is cheap filling, and tasty, but I don't expect it to fill my dining needs day in and day out. Similarly, dinner at the French Laundry in Napa is a life affirming, eye-opening experience, but who has $500 to drop on a dinner tab several times a month. Certainly not me.
I tend to prefer macs for my heavy lifting because they run all of the scientific software that I use in my research (half of which have NO windows equivalent notwithstanding the assertions of many windows fanbois that there are "hundreds" of apps available for any purpose under Windows); Mac OS X is more stable, is easier and more intuitive to use, and is more attractively rendered (aesthetics are important); my iMac and Mac Mini are based on laptop components and draw significantly less power than my Windows desktops; my macs take up less space, require fewer cables and are less environmentally obtrusive than my HP and Sony desktops.
As regards the Apple Tax, all I can say is what my grandmother used to say when confronted with nonsense: pshaw! Yes, you can get a cheaper computer that is functionally similar. Yes, the legion of Windows PC makers offering a dazzling array of configuration for purchase, Apple offers less than 20 (not counting build to order configs from the Apple Store. Yes, most people will be content with their Windows machine purchase. Apple designs and markets to narrow segments of the overall computer market place. That makes them neither good nor bad, simply selective in the way that other upscale companies are selective in the market segments they choose to enter. If one compares products within relevant markets (the way the Feds do in anti-trust cases), then Apple's products are priced similarly. I see a lot of people making "functional" substitutions in supporting their Apple tax arguments, but these are bogus if one's intent is to compare products that compete in the same market segment. For example, you can't say my Core i7 is significantly cheeper than Apple's choice of a Xeon processor and then cry Apple tax. You have to use the same componants in the same configurations. When this is done, it's clear there is no Apple tax. This article is merely one of several that I've seen recently, and they all come to the same conclusion, Apple machines are similarly, and often more cheaply, priced than other computers in the same market segment.
I'll finish by pointing out two additional factors that militate in favor of macs. Support and resale value. With regard to support, Apple is the sina qua non. Two years ago, I had to return my iMac for service because the power supply had blown out. I was doing research as a visitor away from home, and the computer went down about a week before my return. They repaired the machine in plenty of time, but scratched the front panel rather badly in the process. Problem was, those panels were on back order and not expected back before I was due to leave. So instead, Apple replaced the entire machine with a next generation model having a faster processor and larger herd drive (this on a three year old machine). Three weeks ago, I careless knocked my wireless keyboard to the floor, resulting the pop off of the F5 key. It didn't really affect the operation of the keyboard, it was just unsightly. I took the keyboard in the my local Apple Store to see if they could replace the lost key. They couldn't because the tongs used to seat the key were too bent. So, without any prompting from me, they pulled a new keyboard off the shelf, extracted the keyboard and handed it to me as an exchange. I sincerely doubt there are many Dell, Lenovo, HP, or Sony fans out there who've had these sorts of experiences with their respective customer service reps.
Another point routinely missed in the Apple Tax debate is the hidden Apple rebate that comes with every machine. Macs retain their street value much longer than other PCs. I just sold a 2001 PowerBook (1.25 Ghz G4, 100 GB hard drive and 2 GB of RAM for $1000. That's roughly 40% of the original cost. I sold a year old MacBook for $800, representing 70% of my original investment. Thus, I am able to trade up every three or four years with the knowledge that I'll be able to cut the cost of my new computer by 40-70% through the resale of the computer being replaced. My Windows PCs go to relatives or even the landfill because no one wants to buy a three or four year old Dell or HP. Granted, your initial investment may be higher than you might pay for that cheap, on sale laptop at Best Buy or Office Depot, but once the purchase is made, you can relax in the knowledge that your initial investment can be recovered over and over again as you sell the old to pay for the new.