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No. of Recommendations: 3
Paul (Bear) and Rick (Bull) both presented good arguments in their Apple Core duel today (9/5/01). I thought Paul's arguments were more to the point of why or why not to invest in Apple. Rick's played on the Apple mystique more. Here are my thoughts, having been a pro-Mac user for many years who is reluctantly switching to Windows and more recently Linux where relevant.

It is important to underscore that the PC makers can't be directly compared with Apple, because they are Microsoft puppets, essentially, and have little control over their destiny. Recent events (HP/Compaq merger) show how desperate PC makers are to reduce their reliance on box revenues. Apple, like Sun and IBM, controls much more of the complete system than any of the PC makers, and this is in general a good thing.

Paul's statement that MacOS and Windows are now at about equal ease of use, in an attempt to downplay Apple's differentiation, is not at all correct. MacOS is really a far simpler OS to install, maintain, debug, upgrade, and just plain use. Windows continues to shows its hodge-podge history and lack of consistency that never seems to go away. MacOS and Windows are quite different, and MacOS, on a technical level, is clearly better.

All that said, and more relevant to an investment decision, why am I switching to Windows? Our home network supports both Mac and Windows equally well so we are neutral in that regard. We went through the Mac/Windows tradeoff a year ago when looking for a system for my daughter who is starting high school now. Rick's argument that so much is done on the Net may be true, and it provides some leveling between the platforms, but there's plenty of work that gets done *not* on the Internet and requires applications on the local system. We did a survey of the dozen or so applications we thought she would want or need and about half were only available for Windows boxes, or Mac versions were significantly older and/or poorly supported (for those who might want the list of apps, I'm sorry in advance that I didn't write them down). Even the nod to a reliable and well-supported web browser goes to IE -- Windows only of course. So we bought her a Windows box, teeth firmly gritted. (BTW, I bought the components and built it myself, so the PC makers didn't benefit from that decision either -- only Microsoft and Nvidia made much profit on this system.)

Apple certainly has contributed well in the multi-platform software areas such as QuickTime but these are under serious attack, mostly from Microsoft. A few battles have been won by Apple in this area but the war looks uncomfortably close to over.

The only light I see for Apple is a potential severe reaction to privacy issues in Windows XP from consumers and/or federal courts, but I would not hold my breath. I for one will not buy Windows XP, or Office XP, for this reason. I'll look at Apple again when another purchase decision comes up but unless the application software picture changes dramatically I don't think the outcome will be much different.

Bottom line: the Bear arguments were more accurate in showing the serious long-term market share issues Apple has, and in its final conclusion. Both arguments had accurate points but I was disappointed that both glossed over too many significant issues in defense of their positions. I would not invest in Apple.
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