Apple Mac Software: Spend much less (but get much more) than on a PC.

I wrote earlier about the lower price of the new iMac, but didn’t discuss how I’m able to spend less money on software, and yet get more, as opposed to a PC.

To explain this I’ll recount the primary software on my current Windows PC and the new Mac.

On the PC…

For photos, while Picasa and Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition are free, and quite nice, they’re not enough for me. I don’t need the features (or price) of Photoshop, but I clearly needed more than the freebies available. I ran 30-day demos of Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements, and chose Photoshop Elements. Aside from sluggish performance and the organizer and editor being separate applications I’ve been happy with this choice.

For movies, none of the freebies for Windows XP were even passable. Awful stuff, really. I had run Pinnacle Studio, which I was happy with (Pinnacle is now a part of Avid), but for my latest PC I looked at Adobe Premiere Elements and opted to switch products. Like it’s photo sibling, I think its performance is weak but it’s otherwise a fine product.

Finally, there’s the obligatory productivity suite. Like most PC users I chose Microsoft Office. In my case, Office Basic Edition (Word, Excel and Outlook; no PowerPoint but I downloaded Microsoft’s free PowerPoint Viewer). Not having PowerPoint for editing was occasionally an issue, but I used another machine for those times.

The cost? Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements bundled for $149. Office Basic was also $149. That’s $300 for the “basic” software I needed right away, and I didn’t have PowerPoint.

On the Mac…

For photos, the previous iPhoto was better than the PC’s freebies, but still came up short for me. I may not use all of Photoshop Elements’ controls, but iPhoto’s editing functions were pretty spartan, and keywords were a bit weak. Since Adobe doesn’t care about the Mac’s Elements (still at 4.o when the PC’s had 5.0 for months) I was looking at Aperture. But iPhoto ’08 has changed all that. It borrowed from Aperture, with new controls for Shadows, Highlights, Noise Reduction and White Balance that are invaluable. There’s also a “gamma” slider in the Levels control, and you can Copy and Paste photo adjustments. Further, working with keywords is greatly improved. Those changes, along with other new functionality, will allow iPhoto to fill my needs. Score one for the freebies.

For movies, iMovie had some limitations compared to Premiere Elements, primarily only one video track, but I’ve never used multiple video tracks. It’s extremely capable for home movies, and iMovie ’08 looks even better. The new paradigm of easy clip selection/editing without resorting to a timeline appeals to me. So does the single library for all my shot video. Further, iMovie HD 6 is still available, so I can use both as needed. With iMovie I see no need for another movie app at this time. Score another for the freebies.

For productivity apps, I use spreadsheets and Apple’s suite didn’t have one. For that reason alone I was likely Office-bound. However, like Adobe, Microsoft doesn’t care about their Mac product, but now Apple has a bona-fide competitor. The new iWorks ’08 includes a spreadsheet and has Office document compatibility including 2007’s Open XML formats. Office costs more, is several years old (and won’t be upgraded for at least five months), does not support 2007 Open XML formats, and is still not a universal binary application. In my opinion this makes it a poor choice for anyone for which it isn’t mandated.

The cost? Photo and movie software included with the Mac. IWork ’08 for $79 (compare to $149 for Office Student and Teacher Edition).

And so…

If you’re keeping score, it’s $300 for my current “basics” PC software and $79 for the same thing on the Mac. Only it’s not “the same thing” on the Mac, it’s much better! It includes iWeb, Garageband, iDVD, and Keynote for which I currently have no direct PC equivalents. Sure, maybe I can buy PC equivalents, but then the software price delta becomes even greater. Simply put, the Mac is providing much more software, for much less money, and they all share data seamlessly!

Apple has worked hard to make software a key differentiator on their platform, and it shows. Not only the OS (which is just a means to an end when you think about it), but applications that people really use. This clear advantage took a huge leap forward with the new iLife and iWork suites. Software is yet another reason to strongly consider a Mac.

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6 thoughts on “Apple Mac Software: Spend much less (but get much more) than on a PC.

  1. Apple writes software to sell the hardware. They care about good design. They show developers how it’s done by setting the bar very, very high.

    Microsoft has had very little taste in the past. They don’t think things through. They don’t get the tiny, subtle details that make Apple software great. That’s why their developers follow suit.

  2. I see your point, but there’s upgrade cycles on both machines so I’m not sure how it applies.

    The iLife you get free and the Photoshop/Premiere bundle you buy are both current when you get them. Sure, new versions come out and you can upgrade. That’s the consumer’s choice (lots of people don’t buy every upgrade), and in any case it applies to ALL the software I discussed. I’m not sure how it changes my initial point.

    In your example, if we wait a year than the $149 paid for Photoshop/Premiere doesn’t count because there’d be newer versions and you’d need to pay for an upgrade.

    The fact is, all software goes through upgrade cycles, so the real comparison is the initial expense to get what 90% of users want to do with a computer. I chose productivity, photo, and movie software for that purpose. Had I chose to also include web site development and music software, the Mac would come out even further ahead.

  3. Be careful… iLife is “free” because it comes buldled with every Mac… and this totally skews the comparison. Because if you pay 149$ for the Premiere/Photoshop bundle, you get software that is current. My Mac is one year old, and I would have to buy iLife ’08 to get the nicer iPhoto…

    Because Photoshop Elements often comes free with your digital camera…

    I think that a better, but still not exact comparison, is to say that iLife+iWork comes at 160$ but to mention that iLife is bundled with every new Mac.

    Still, it id lower than the 300$ PC equivalent!

  4. Dell and HP don’t do anything similar because they are incapable of it. The best they could do is license similar software from, say, Microsoft.

    But Microsoft doesn’t have similar software, and never will. MS doesn’t know how to write software for users (as opposed to corporate committees). Further, MS is clueless about adding value. Look at the “free” MS Works; it’s peppered with ads! Nothing shows how moronic Microsoft’s mindset is than that.

  5. tssgktGreat article, once again. The free iLife software Apple includes with their Macs make a huge difference when it comes to the Mac vs. PC argument. I often wonder why Dell and HP have allowed the crapware to spoil the user experience and not make (or buy and label) their own user apps to counter iLife. But I really think it goes back to what most people do on a Mac and what most people do on a PC. Having great software like iLife makes you want to make movies, slideshows, music, DVDs, etc. while crapware discourages this on a typical PC, so the user simply uses it for net surfing and email. They end up way less encouraged to be creative. I see this again and again and again when I recommend a Mac to someone. They end up using iLife because it is so easy. This is such a great marketing score for Apple, and just demonstrates that they are a world class hardware, OS and software maker.

  6. Very true. iLife and iWork are two solid application packages. It will be very difficult for Microsoft, or another third-party developer to introduce something similar.

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