As I wander around the Worcester Polytech campus between classes (even sub-zero wind chills can't keep me inside after 90 minutes of stats lectures), I've noticed an interesting shift since I started my master's degree about a year and a half ago. I'm actually seeing Macs.
WPI is a geek school. It's run by geeks, for geeks. The least geeky departments consist of business geeks looking for new ways to apply math and technology to economics and high-tech industries. Clove-smoking, coffeehouse-sitting liberal arts majors who might like a Mac for writing haiku are not to be found. So why, when for so long Apple has been about content creation and creativity, am I seeing little white Macbooks and metallic Macbook Pros in numbers that are beginning to rival at least Lenovos (with whom the school has a student pricing agreement), if not Dells (with whom the school also has an agreement)?
What's driving this shift? Is it simply Boot Camp and Parallels that allow users to choose a variety of operating systems to meet varying needs? Is it compelling design? Is it easy integration with the ubiquitous iPod? Or is it Vista? I'm inclined to believe it's the latter. How many geeks and gamers do you know who are really enamored of Vista? When the student computing center gives students XP disks and licenses for $5, Boot Camp means that students can have a computer running a slick, stable, secure machine, with some of the coolness and nerd-cache of Linux (OS X is just pretty BSD, after all) while flopping over at a moment's notice to XP for gaming or Windows-only applications.
The ability to have your cake and eat it too, without spending too much time setting up dual-boot Linux machines and fiddling with drivers, software compatibility, etc., is an attractive proposition. Talk back below and let me know: are you seeing a similar shift in student computing? If so, why do you think that so many students are now among the growing numbers of "switchers?"