A Mac is a type of personal computer -- desktop, laptop or tablet PC -- manufactured and marketed by Apple Inc., which runs on the Mac operating system, known as Mac OS. The chief competitor of Macs are computers that run on the Windows operating system produced by Microsoft Corp., which are often associated with the name "PC," especially when comparing Windows and Mac computers. There are literally hundreds of differences between Macs and PCs in their features, components and cost.
Apple first introduced the Macintosh computer in 1984. It was the first computer to use a graphical user interface that made it easier for users to use programs and devices. Fourteen years later, in 1998, Apple began producing the iMac, which changed the personal computer market because it made it easier to access the Internet, eliminated the then-obsolete 3.5-inch floppy disk drive and used a universal serial bus (USB) interface. Apple continued refining the iMac line, which simply became known as the "Mac."
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Microsoft first introduced the Windows 1.0 operating system in November 1985. Like the first Macintosh OS, the user simply had to use a mouse to point and click through a series of windows to control applications and devices. Microsoft continued refining Windows, and in 1995, introduced Windows 95, which had built-in Internet support, dial-up networking and multimedia features that made it the world's most popular computer operating system. In 2011, Windows continues to dominate the personal computer market.
The most obvious difference between Macs and PCs are all computers that run on the Mac OS are manufactured by Apple, which is not the case with Windows. In 2011, there were more than a dozen computer brands that ran with Windows, including Hewlett Packard, Dell, Gateway, Asus, Lenovo and Sony. Apple has often used this fact as a competitive differentiator, arguing that while there are only a small number of Macs available, they all meet Apple's manufacturing standards, while Windows computers have a range of manufacturers and standards.
While more than 90 percent of personal computers were Windows-based PCs in 2011, Macs dominated the premium computer market. In 2009, according to TechCrunch, about 91 percent of the computers sold at retail for over $1,000 were Macs. In 2011, the lowest-priced Mac was the Mac Mini, a small energy-efficient desktop computer which was priced at $699 by Apple, more expensive than some Windows PCs with similar specifications.
The majority of viruses, Trojans and other malicious software are targeted at Windows PCs, which meant Mac users not running an antivirus program were less susceptible to attacks. However, Mac users were still vulnerable to other viruses that targeted online activities.
Where many users cite Windows PCs as having an advantage over Macs is the fact Windows PCs can be more easily customized. While Macs were available in nine options as of 2011, Windows PC users had the option of purchasing a base computer and more easily adapting it to their needs with memory, video graphics cards, software and more options of styles and price.