I can feel them...the flames...they're coming. But I have to ask this question again (yes, I've asked one very much like it before) in light of recent events. The recent events, of course, involve the release of a particular Linux distribution with a funny African sort of name and, maybe more significantly, the first tier-one vendor's adoption of said funny-sounding distro as an OS choice.
Macintosh, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly focused on consumer appliances (oh yeah, AppleTV, that has applications in the classroom), notebooks (even their "budget" Macbooks are running Core 2 Duos), and high-end workstations (rumors are flying about the demise of the Mac Mini and the 17" iMac). While I'll be the first to admit that OS X is a truly elegant operating system and that both Mac hardware and software are full of useful little features and innovations, so is Kubuntu. And Xubuntu. Sorry, not loving Gnome so much lately, so I'm leaving the actual funny-African-named distro off the list, but I can't say enough good stuff about Edubuntu.
Several readers have mentioned recent innovations in Mandriva that they believe makes it even better than the 'buntus; I've had great experiences with Fedora Core and OpenSUSE. I know a bunch of former Mac owners who think Yellow Dog Linux is about the best thing since sliced bread. So with all of these innovations and really refined interfaces, with so many great alternatives to Windows, why would I stretch my budget for a really pretty case? Why would I buy a really expensive laptop with JUST ONE MOUSE BUTTON??!!!
Is it Photoshop? Or Creative Suite? Because they run beautifully on a cheaper PC. Plenty of open-source alternatives exist as well, and I don't just mean the GIMP, although this is one heck of a powerful program. Sodipodi and Inkscape are out there free for the taking as are Paint.Net, CinePaint, Gimpshop, and Krita, among others.
Sure, Garageband is really cool, too, but has little or no application in education and there are plenty of open source and/or Windows tools that allow for easy music content creation to keep the band geeks happy.
I can't even buy the high-end workstation argument anymore. There are very few video editing tasks that we might encounter here in Ed Tech that can't be handled quite nicely by a Linux or Windows machine with a good video card and a big hard drive. Open source development in this area is particularly fierce right now.
Near supercomputing capabilities on a workstation? Like Macs, most Linux distros now natively support clustering and Windows and Linux boxes have access to the same hardware as Apple. I'm sure that there are some animators at Pixar that would beg to differ with me, but for most of us here in Ed Tech (and virtually everywhere else for that matter), the latest Mac Pro with 8 cores of 3GHz goodness are probably a bit of overkill.
I even tried to accommodate a teacher recently who ran a journalism program on a bunch of badly dated iMacs. I installed new Mac Minis for him, to his delight, but question the value of the investment beyond delighting a teacher who works particularly hard for his students. Most of my readers agreed that I probably could have made a sounder IT choice by just making him use Windows, since we've standardized to a Windows platform everywhere else. I got some kudos for being a nice guy, and the Mac setup was truly effortless. However, so is Ubuntu's.
Apple has been a niche player for some time, but I maintain that the utter maturity of Linux as well as the generally low cost of Windows machines further marginalizes Apple in education. Can anyone give me a reason to keep paying the premiums associated with pretty white and silver boxes in an educational setting? I know I can spec out some midrange PCs such they are comparably priced to Intel Macs, but Apple doesn't even play in the sector where I spend most of my time. So what gives? Give me some better reasons than "Apple was at the forefront of 1987 classroom technology" or "Little Johnny just lights up when he uses Garageband." Just talkback below.