Reality Check: A Mac is a PC

Picture 1 We live in a world where marketing is reality. All you have to do is look at the world of politics to see that. Perception is reality. Apple is the king of perception marketing in the tech industry. The “Mac versus PC” commercials have successfully put forth the idea that a Mac is different than a PC.

It isn’t and it is about time we get this right. No, I will not be creating a “MacMech” as many times as people shoot the idea to me.

The biggest misconception here, perpetuated by Apple’s brilliant marketing, is that a Windows-powered computer is a PC while a computer running OS X is somehow different. It is a MAC! It isn’t the same as that boring little Windows PC. But, the perception is dead wrong.

Just the other day, a site linked to PCMech saying “it is not a Mac site”. I have had people ask me if I’m going to create a “MacMech”. And, this morning, I also read a piece by the editor-in-chief of PC Magazine entitled “Macs are PCs, Dammit"!”. Apparently, people have been getting on PC Magazine, too, because that word “PC” in the title must mean they talk all about Windows computers, right? Well, I sympathize with Lance Ulanoff. PCMech also has the word “PC” in the title. In fact, this site used to be called “PC Mechanic” and there is little doubt that, yes, this site discusses Windows quite a bit.

Let’s remember, however, that “PC” means “personal computer”. Since when did the word “PC” mean a computer running Windows? Is a computer running Linux not a PC either? Or are we supposed to think that Windows and Linux powered machines are PC’s while a system running OS X stands apart as a different beast?

The evolution of this concept isn’t hard to see. The first PC was the IBM PC and it ran MS-DOS, a text-based operating system. MS-DOS was considered the de-facto standard at the time, just like Windows is today. Apple, in 1984, released the Macintosh. They gave it a different name so as to differentiate it from the text-based IBM compatibles. The Apple was the first computer to use a mouse and a graphical interface, and Apple clearly wanted to differentiate and make that fact clear. But, even then, the Mac was a box with an integrated display, keyboard, CPU, hard drive – everything the IBM PCs had. The word “Macintosh” was simply a marketing term. The only thing unique about it was the mouse, but the IBM compatibles had that before too long, too.

MacPCToday, it is the same. The Mac is no different than the PC except for operating system. They all use essentially the same hardware, and that is even more clear now that Apple is using Intel processors. Both are computers. The only different is the operating system.

The Apple commercials are brilliant. They clearly make the PC seem radically different than the Mac. But, introducing reality to it would make the commercial suck. What if the Mac guy said “I’m also a PC.”. He’d be correct, but it would obviously suck as a commercial. Or what if the PC guy says “Hi, I’m a Windows”. Yeah – lame.

Every move by Apple is designed to foster the image of the Macintosh as the gift from the heavens. They position it differently. They price it higher. You have to go to certain stores to get the thing. You can’t build one, really. So, every little thing that they do is designed to do one thing: create an image of the Mac as an exclusive, premium machine. You’re cool if you own one, dammit.

But, alas, it is marketing. Pure and simple.

Don’t get me wrong: The Mac is a fantastic product. OS X is a superb operating system and the Mac Pro (which I use daily) is a solid machine. My Macbook Pro, too, is an awesome laptop. But, on both, I happen to also run Windows. Does that make them PCs and not Macs anymore?

A computer is a computer. They all are, essentially, dumb boxes with circuits that sit there and blindly execute every instruction passed to the processor. That’s all it does.


  1. Can I just say, THANK YOU!! Its about time that someone spoke up about this. I suppose that PC attached itself to, what seems like, 90% of the world population (end-users) computers are running a Windows OS machine. Are we, as techs, the only people that see the difference? That a PC is a personal computer no matter what OS you run. What is inside the box itself is all the same. They all require a power supply, memory, hard drives, monitors, keyboards, and a mouse. Its just some are more proprietary than others. I have nothing agianst Mac, I would love to own a Mac machine. So… when /are/ you going to make a LinuxMech?? IM JUST KIDDING!!

    • Would said LinuxMech be divided into sub-groups such as LinuxMechUbuntu, LinuxMechPuppy, and so on? (More groups than Linux users, seeing as the number of distros now exceeds the number of users.)

      ‘Any news of the Psystar/Apple wrangling? That appears to have fizzled into obscurity lately.

      naming the business MAPCLImech might shut the critics up; or confuse them?

  2. Jason Faulkner says:

    Well, considering Apple doesn’t make laptops, they make Macbooks (, I can see how Apple (and their users) would _actually_ believe they didn’t make PC’s either… rather Macs.

    “We live in a world where marketing is reality.”
    Unfortunately, free thinking may go the way of the neanderthal as evolution runs its course.

  3. Great post Dave! I am going to send this to a friend of mine who says “I do not own a PC I own a Mac!”

  4. Another fine post. It couldn’t have been explained any better. I will also be forwarding a link to a few family members who battle the PC vs. Mac on a daily basis.

  5. “A computer is a computer. They all are, essentially, dumb boxes with circuits that sit there and blindly execute every instruction passed to the processor. That’s all it does.”

    Great closing paragraph!! Says it all!

  6. Thank you Dave! I just can’t stand it when people Assume that if you have a PC you are AUTOMATICALLY running Windows! I run Linux (Ubuntu) and every time I see that commercial it only talks about how PCs are Windows. Most of the things they say about PCs in that commercial have nothing to do with Linux or any other OS, only Windows!

  7. Also BestBuy now carries Macs so going to special stores isn’t really an issue anymore…

    • Most stores carry Macs but only certain stores have an Apple store within the store. And I don’t mean a ‘physical’ store within the store (like Magnolia for example) but a dedicated Apple department with a certified Apple representative or ‘expert’ as they like to be called.

      The larger BBY stores with the Apple sections are better equipped to help you out than the smaller stores who sell only a small amount of Apple products.

      Just a little FYI… 🙂

  8. Finally someone is actually stating the obvious. At work I have to put up with the owners of Apple Macs going on about how different their machine is, and how much safer it is (apparently Apples don’t get virus’). They cannot see that the Apple laptops are just PC’s inside and are now rnning Unix with OS X, how much less Apple can yo get if you look a their adds?

  9. Exactly! I think Apple really screwed up with those ads. By definition PC = Personal Computer. Therefore, Mac is a PC! If it’s not a computer for a person’s use, then it doesn’t belong on people’s desks. They need to get their vocabulary straight. Why not just come out an say it I’m Mac and I’m Windows. I’m same as you except prettier. Hom-hum marketing ads… Only reason they run ’em is because Mac fan boys find ’em funny without giving it a second thought.

    I’m glad someone has finally spoken about this.

  10. The reason Macs aren’t PCs, i9s because Macs are so expensive, that an entire family can’t own one each.

  11. pcs use the 8086 architecture while macs do not. not only that, but macs have signed hardware as compared to pcs which do not have signed hardware. signed hardware are hardware that is meant to be used specifically for that system only. so if you have a mac, you’d have to use mac specific hardware while pcs do not.

  12. Storm PCs says:

    First I have to correct your statement that the IBM PC was the first PC. It was not. Most people consider the Apple ][ the first PC. That’s not correct either, but it WAS created long before IBM ripped off the basic concept.

    I agree that the Apple commercials are stupid (aren’t they all?) and I believe they hurt Apple more than they help. Even so, Apple is a company with a long history of providing premium products (hardware and software), so saying there is no difference is just as stupid as the Apple commercials. To this day I find that the design and build quality is second to none. They charge more because they can.

    And while Macs are not immuned to viruses and malware they are unaffected by the Windows compatible ones (unless you run Windows natively). That brings me to the following:

    If you desire to play and experiment with the maximum amount of available hardware and software, the Clones (as opposed to PCs) are your only choice.

    If you desire a computer that will run every piece of software on Earth and will be more reliably and last longer than most sowing machines then the Mac is your only choice. (Before you Hackintosh experimenters chime in, simply booting OS X does not mean you have a cheap Mac…booting OS X does not a Mac make!)

    Finally, don’t forget what hardware is for. If you have no programs you do not need a computer, because that is what they are for. Buy whatever runs what you need to. Keep in mind however that the writer of the article I am responding to uses Macs by his own accord. I believe this is not a coincidence. I’m out.

  13. Thank you Dave for nailing the it right on the head. One might argue that since Apple emphasizes the end user experience it’s even more of a “personal” computer(iMac, iPhone, iPod..need “I” say more?) than a traditional Windows(or Linux) machine. I think it shows how well Apple has marketed it’s products that it takes the focus off the fact that they are a computer company.

    If Apple designed an automobile an iDrive. The iDrive is an marketed as I one of kind automobile. Designed and built from ground up by Apple. Soon there are iDrive vs. car ads. They include an engine(Hybrid or all electric), four wheels, steering wheel, and seating for four. All the “i” stuff built in it already. It’s priced in the Cadillac/BMW/Mercedes bracket. They can only be sold at Apple Stores/Dealers. When you need servicing it has to be done through an Apple Dealer. Want to service it yourself. You still have to go to an Apple Dealer. Even the changing tires, oil, or whatever has to be done through Apple. Want to pimp your machine like custom paint, huge rims, high performance parts? All modifications have to go through a vague approval process that may or may not go through. Soon they build up a rabid following. Soon they have iDrive vs. Car commercials where a normal “Car” is seen as uncool or outdated prone to theft and breakdowns. Of course they don’t mention that they have only a ten percent market share and so they are not major the target of thieves and such.

  14. Larry Thompson says:

    If you where to totally uninstall MAC OS from a mac and install VISTA or Linux would it still be a MAC? If you spilled Cheese whiz on a MAC would it become Mac and cheese?

    • Larry Thompson says:

      and also if a mac is not a PC ( personal computer) what is it then an impersonal computer ? Could this be the reason that Mac owners tend to have their noses stuck up in the air?

    • If you w(h)ere to learn to write English, would you still be an idiot?

  15. Wow, a Mac ia a PC. I always thought a Mac is a raincoat and Apple is a fruit. But hey, there will always be people who are willing to buy a pencil for $10,000 and if the seller markets it as a magic wand for writing.

  16. alexander the great says:

    YES! finally! i’ve been telling all my mac using friends this, and they just don’t get it…i can’t blame them though, all they know how to do is turn the computer on and open a web browser. XD
    very informative article for the “non-believers”

  17. Can I just say, what a load of malarky? I can? Good. Why write something so stupid? Yeah, Mac commercials definitely do give the impression that something is different. That macs are created by a company that is full of losers for putting out such stupid ads.

  18. Let me preface this by saying that I wish there were more articles like this out there.

    Thank you for finally cutting through all the rhetorical bullshit and actually giving barebones answers to questions multitudes of people have regarding MACS and PCS.

    This will benefit all who are trying to make an informed choice about to what to invest in.

    Thanks again.

Speak Your Mind