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The Mac vs. Windows Rivalry is Dead. Apple Won.

Whoops. It suddenly occurred to me: the old Mac-Windows rivalry is dead. There goes a bit of industry history.

It used to be fun, back in the old days, when it mattered. If you’re old enough you’ll remember the famous 1984 Macintosh ad. I was generally forgiven by the Mac zealots for my weakness for Windows, but only because I also used Macs and recognized their superiority. My Mac friends treated my sympathy for Windows systems as a forgivable flaw in my character.

I used to tell this modified version of an old joke:

Somebody dies and goes to heaven. On arrival, St. Peter gives him the quick tour of the place. As they go through heaven from place to place, they look at the mall, the school, the park … and they keep seeing a high wall on one side or the other. Finally, the new arrival can’t resist asking: “What’s with the wall?” St. Peter Answers: “That’s where we keep the Mac users. They like to think they’re the only ones here.”

I like Apple. I consulted with Apple from 1982 to 1994. Apple loaned me an Apple II in 1983 and a Macintosh early in 1984. I wrote the first book laid out on an AppleLaserWriter (at least according to me and McGraw-Hill Microtext, the publisher). As a consultant to Apple, I worried as Windows started to effectively imitate the Mac — not that it was as good, but it was good enough to fool a buyer in a store. And it was personally painful to me when the Windows system so dominated business computing, the late 1990s and early 2000s, that we (temporarily) dropped our Mac business plan product. We really had to. By 2000 a Mac product was costing ten times more than Windows to develop, and its market was about ten times less than Windows. Business is business.

By 2004 my computing was all Windows. And at that point my computing was all Windows. It wasn’t torture. Windows worked. I use a computer to get things done, and Windows did. I may have still preferred Mac, but hey, business is business.

And then the Mac came back. We saw them first in airports, the MacBooks, silently gaining strength and visibility. Then there was the iPhone, and more MacBooks. And then the gorgeous new iMacs. I taught an entrepreneurship class at the University of Oregon from 1998 through 2009. In the beginning all my students had Windows laptops. By the end, 80% of them were on Macs.

Once again, being Mac literate is good business. At Palo Alto Software, our LivePlan SaaS app is browser-based, operating system neutral, and developed mostly on Macs. And Mac software, and the Mac software market, are growth markets again. The app store works. Happy ending.

So now I’m almost all Mac again. I have two iMacs at home, a MacBook air, and iPhone and iPad, and I love it. An old friend. Isn’t computing great? And my Windows 7 desktop, in the office at the company, still works just fine too, thanks. It’s not good and evil, just computing.

But don’t tell the Linux geeks.



  • Ahmad Siddiqi says:

    4 years later how is the competition looking? Long story short the MAC is dead and the PC/Windows ecosystem has cemented itself as the top dog again.

    Apple has stopped innovating and the MAC ecosystem is all but dead. Only a few fanboys use it. A couple years ago I bought a MAC book pro with the media bar and boy what a useless idea that was. I’m a heavy computer user and aside from bragging rights there seems to be no use for a MAC anymore.

  • Roshan says:

    I’ll have to say the rivalry is dying and Windows is winning. Apple doesn’t care much about Macs these days. They took away lots of people from Mac department and placed them to iOS dept. There are fewer updates now. And the new thinner mac with that stupid emoji bar is not worth it!

    I use a Mac, by the way.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Roshan … a walk in the past, by the way. That post is six years old now. Evergreen. But your addition here is welcome. Tim

  • Alessandro says:

    4 years later the Mac is dead. Dead as a doornail. Hardware has not been upgrade, except in the MacBook Pro which is incredibly expensive, Mac OS ihas become pitiful, incredibly slow, buggy as hell…
    So why buy a Mac when for around 1000 euro you can buy a good PC, either
    a desktop or a notebook, and use an operating system (Windows 10) that
    overall is quite good (and improving all the time)

  • Andrew says:

    This is painfully biased. I hate people like the author who have no open minded-ness whatsoever. Apple didn’t win, there is no way to judge which one is better. Please refer to this article: Also, if you really think Apple won, then how come Windows has the most users? Are they all wrong?

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Andrew. “Painfully biased:” ouch. I don’t think so. But bias is hard to see from the inside, so I’m not dead certain. As to “No open minded-ness whatsoever:” absolutely wrong. I was Windows only from 2001 until 2009, and as I write this I’m on a Mac that’s less than three feet from a Windows computer. My main computer in my office is a Windows computer. More important, when asked, I say that I really like my Windows system; and that the Windows 7 operating system works fine for me.

      There is a way to judge which one is better: subjective judgement, opinion. Stuart Alsop once wrote: “Good software is like silk. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you use it.” (I’m paraphrasing; I don’t know the exact quote). And what you see here is one opinion.

      Some would say that bias is ruling out opinions you don’t like by claiming “bias” and “no open-mindedness” when you encounter them.

      • Andrew says:

        Hello Tim, I would just like to thank you for responding to my comment, most people don’t do that.

        I want to apologize if I offended you, I worded that kind of rudely. I am just saying, anyone you ask is going to give you a different answer, some will say Linux is the best, some will say Windows is the best, etc. The point is, no OS is perfect, no OS comes out on top. It really just depends on the user. If you want something that simply works, go with Mac. It is a fantastic system that works swiftly and smoothly. Want to change some things about your computer, or want to play games? Get Windows 7. Want to transfer files? Get Linux.

        I personally am a gamer, and I use Windows 7 because it works for me and I adore personalizing it, which is why I have an Android phone. I have used Mac’s before, I specifically used them for graphic design, and I think that aspect is better on the Mac than it is on Windows. So in conclusion, some aspects in an OS are better than others, no OS can come out on top, because it is a matter of preference.

        Again, I want to thank you for your time and for reading my opinion.


        • Owain says:

          Hi Tim & Andrew

          To add my point of view, I love OSX it is like “fine silk”. For me it just works so well. Im on my 6 year old Imac right now and up until a few months ago i would have said its worked fine, Im not complaining its done a fine job, it slowed up little bit 3 years ago so i formatted it to clear up some of the junk etc then just before christmas, hard drive died.
          I’ve been planning on getting a pc for a while now ( il go into reason why in a min) and have planned to build my own as I really want to know my computer and be able to completely maintain it myself. So with the HD gone it gave me the excuse to rip open my mac and pull the HD out and do it myself (my mother doesn’t trust me with this kind of thing, I don’t know why and she got a quote of £150 to fix it from the shop in town lol!). I got it done but it was an absolute mission to get in I needed a whole new alan-key set and suction pad to get the screen out. To add to this I sold an old G5 ( non intel) to a friend and the power unit had gone so i said id have a look at it see what i could do yet again a mission to get into! I had to prize some ridiculous panel out and remove various heat sinks before I could slide the bottom panel out and remove the power unit.
          The way I’m going with this is I feel like apple make a great OS yet there way of business is here’s a computer and this is what we’ll let you do with it! O and because its apple were going to charge you double the price!
          So this is why I’m leaving apple The pc i’ll be building will cost me a good £800 thats a 16gb ram ddr 3 2333, i7, 2gb nvidea gddr5. Th imac equivelent is £1300 with only a 512mb nvidea (i5) (granted that includes the monitor) and the Mac pro equiv is £2500! So even if after 2 years the computer blows up il just go buy another and still be better off on the money heck even a 3rd one!

  • Dobes Vandermeer says:

    Well, Apple didn’t win and neither did Microsoft. Looks like the W3C is the victor in this battle. Which, interestingly, means that Netscape was right all along.

  • Chris Hamilton says:

    Oops, I was looking at the wrong chart. The earlier link was just for wikipedia. A better OS market share link, and the figures are similar…

  • Chris Hamilton says:

    I have to weigh in on this 🙂

    It looks to me that Windows has a 73% market share of Operating Systems in use. Mac has 9.07%, iPad 2.86%, iPhone 5.88%.

    As a developer I also like targeting business and enterprise because this market is willing to pay a fair price for the software they need, as opposed to wanting it for free or 99 cents in the app store. I think these are mostly Windows users.

    Windows8/WinRT is coming out later this year for desktop and tablets. It has the new metro interface, touch support, and its own app store. I see Windows having a significant share of the market for some time to come. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me Windows was finished over the last 20 years I could treat you to a very nice lunch. 🙂

  • Cliff Elam says:

    Really? I think in your head you are seeing the coconut horse in Holy Grail, but I’m remembering several other periods of very-non-dominant Apple. I am also seeing the Android vs. iOs footprint and thinking ….


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