Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

Would you buy your student kid a Mac at three or four times the price of a non-Apple laptop if you knew it might not last the year?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Chris Dawson, resident ZDNet Education blogger and friendly counterpart, considered whether buying a Mac for college would indeed be the best computer to buy for college.

While his points are valid and bless him, I value his professional opinion as anyone should. However the 'Mac issue' poses some interesting thoughts for which whoever the person may be who buys the technological bulk for the student needs to consider. Because frankly, more often than not it isn't the student themselves.

Enterprise networks run the Windows platform and not Mac's. Universities more often than not apply with these facts and run Windows also.

In my experience, some universities with higher rates of international students and therefore greater budgets, may well make provisions for 'Mac labs' as part of their computer rooms. The University of Edinburgh for example have a number of public access Mac machines for students to use.

Apple however has taken over other major PC manufacturers in the student laptop space, such as HP, Dell and Toshiba.

I can also understand and vouch for the fact that multimedia technology students, including those doing film and photography may well get a better experience through applications and hardware support from Mac machines. You can always tell the 'creative' and 'arty' student by the fact they have a MacBook in their very presence.

But - and here is the big caveat, as most universities run the Windows operating system throughout, the compatibility between Mac's and PC's are still not there. Ubuntu struggles at times, as does Mac OS X, because they're simply not Windows and that's one of the the simple reasons for it.

Mac's are expensive and should be considered as an investment, more than anything else. But seeing as the Generation Y are on the most part spendthrifts and technology abusers - with beer, popcorn and various other 'fluids' spilling over onto them in due course of the academic year, a bog standard laptop bought each year for three years makes up the cost of a basic MacBook.

So unless you buy the Mac yourself, as a student and not as a parent, then you should be fine provided you are careful with it. Get a cheap laptop with Windows included - or convert a free Windows Server edition to a desktop, client operating system. Otherwise, you'll be playing a constant game of Russian Roulette with your money every time you even go near it.

Would you buy your student kid a Mac at three or four times the price of a non-Apple laptop if you knew it might not last the year?

Editorial standards