November 9, 2006

Mac or PC: It’s Personal

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PCs or Macs? The popularity contest between PCs and Macs has been going on for nearly three decades, starting with the release of the Apple II in 1977 and the IBM PC in 1981.

During the ’80s and early ’90s, Apple pulled ahead with the release of the popular Macintosh line, but its lead quickly eroded during the last decade. In a 2006 estimate by Macworld, Apple only holds a 5.8 percent market share in personal computers.

While its overall market share will remain in single digits in the foreseeable future, Apple is making a comeback in the college student market, according to a study by Inside Higher Ed.

Through a new marketing strategy with heavy emphasis on chicness and aesthetics, and increased preferred provider agreements with colleges and universities, Apple has become the number two choice on campuses across the country.

According to Inside Higher Ed, “A spring 2006 Student Monitor survey of 1,200 full-time four-year undergraduates at 100 campuses found Apple squarely situated as the No. 2 preference among the 19 percent of college students — equivalent to 1.1 million people nationwide — planning to purchase a computer within the next year. Among those students planning to buy a desktop, 41 percent said they planned to buy Dell and 13 percent Apple, with other companies, including Gateway, HP and eMachines, close behind Apple, with 9, 7 and 6 percent of the pie respectively.”

In line with the data presented by Inside Higher Ed, a look at ResNet subscribers’ operating systems show PCs are dominant on campus. 84% of ResNet subscribers run Windows XP, while only 14% run Mac OS X. Although not everyone is subscribed, the trend is nevertheless a valid paradigm.

“We have a lot more PC cases than Mac cases. That’s true for most places,” said Alex Kalininskiy, general information supervisor at CIT.

Walking down the corridors of any residence hall, one will easily find more PCs than Macs.

One avid PC user, Joel Posner ’10, said, “I have a PC because that is what I have always used, and I am very familiar with Windows so it is very easy to use.”

Asked what his next computer purchase will be, Posner said, “My next computer will be a PC, I’m sure.”

However, there are also students who have recently switched to a Mac and have the experience of using both. Jonathan Santomauro ’10 bought a Mac because he likes the way it looks and has since found it also easier to use.

“It just works with everything. It doesn’t need to install software to work with my printer and my mouse, and things generally take a lot shorter to install,” said Santomauro.

Santomauro’s decision to purchase a Mac instead of a PC reflects a wider trend in the purchasing decisions of Cornell students. A look at The Cornell Store’s computer sales to students in the last year is revealing.

“For our last complete fiscal year [July 2005 – June 2006], we sold just over a thousand computers to students — 43% were Apple models, 57% were PCs,” said Margie Whiteleather, strategic projects manager at The Cornell Store.

At Cornell and other universities around the country, PCs are more popular than Macs and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. However, through innovative marketing and specifically targeting its product appeal to young consumers, Apple and its Macs are becoming common once again.