Apple might be the coolest technology company on the planet, but we’ll be sticking with Microsoft’s flaky Windows operating systems for years to come

A couple of years ago, this month's cover feature may have sent many readers running for the hills. Mac, PC or Linux? For anyone who bought a PC magazine or read a PC website back then, this was a question with only one answer.

Frustrated as Windows users were with the sometimes flaky OS (operating system), the constant fear of their PCs being hit by a virus and Microsoft’s lack of ambition with new versions, Windows always had been and always would be their OS of choice. It was a case of better the devil you know and many people immediately switched off when Apple devotees started spouting the benefits of the Mac OS.

Macs were for trendy designers, while the third option, Linux, was for übergeeks with a bee in their bonnet about Microsoft’s evil empire.

But even though PC users looking for an easy life are unlikely to replace their current Windows setup, the Mac is enjoying a renaissance. Swayed by Apple’s emergence as a leading consumer electronics brand, many home computer users are considering Macs for the first time.

In fact, some suggest that Microsoft’s shiny new operating system – Windows Vista – may even be inadvertently encouraging people to consider making the switch to Apple. This isn’t because Vista fails to live up to expectations, but because its release has encouraged people to get into an upgrade mentality at a time when Apple has become the coolest technology company on the planet. Already this year while Microsoft has given us Vista, Apple has launched the iPhone and Apple TV. The version of Apple’s operating system, Mac OS X Leopard, could be the icing on the cake.

All of this paints a rosy picture of the Mac platform, but let’s not get carried away. Even if Apple did start chipping away at Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop and future versions of Windows failed to bring any conclusive reason to upgrade, Microsoft would remain the dominant force in computing for many years to come. Windows is convenient and, for home users looking for a new computer on a budget that will support thousands of easy-to-use applications, a Windows-based computer is most definitely the way to go.

Plus, even the fiercest Mac OS proponents are now giving Windows a vote of confidence. Apple’s Boot Camp – a dual-booting technology that enables a single Mac to run both the Mac OS and Windows – is proving popular among Mac owners. This reinforces the fact that Microsoft’s OS supports a wider range of useful applications than Apple’s platform.

You decide

But with increasing numbers of people purchasing a second and even a third computer for the home, the option to mix-and-match has never been more appealing. This month we give you the tools to help you make the right decision when you buy your next computer, whether that’s over the next few months or in the years to come. As well as Windows Vista, Windows XP and Mac OS X, we look at the up-and-coming Linux, comparing all four on various criteria to establish which one is most appropriate for different types of applications. Whether you place security, performance, appearance or support – from third-party software developers or from Microsoft and Apple themselves – at the top of your agenda, our feature has the answers.

See the full contents of PC Advisor's June 2007 issue, on sale now.

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