PC, or Not PC, That Is the Question for Linux Users

It may be true that “the clothes make the man,” as the old saying goes, but can anything similar be said of a user’s computing preference?

Indeed it can, at least if a recent Hunch survey is anything to go by. Mac users are generally a much more interesting bunch, according to Hunch’s “Profile of a self-described Mac person vs. PC person,” which was published recently as an infographic.

In fact, Mac users are younger, more liberal, more urban, more educated and more likely to eat Shawarma than PC users are, according to the report. Oddly, they’re also more likely to consider themselves “computer-savvy gearheads.”

Was the survey taken on Opposite Day? That, dear reader, is for you to decide.

‘They Do Tend to Stand Out More’

In any case, intriguing as the results of Hunch’s survey may be, they have generated no end of controversy in the Linux blogosphere.

First, of course, were the more than 600 comments on the Hunch site itself, varying all over the board from self-congratulatory agreement to righteous indignation.

“When you see someone at the coffee shop with a PC, the natural inclination is to think, ‘that person has a computer,’ whereas when you see someone with a Mac, it’s ‘that person has a Mac,'” wrote Derek Smith in the comments, for example. “So they do tend to stand out more.”

Then again: “yes, they do tend to stand out more, because they stand out as dumb asses who paid more for a f***ing computer,” shot back Papoose34328.

‘PC’ vs. ‘Windows’

It wasn’t long before some columnist at PCWorld picked up the issue from a Linux perspective, arguing that “PC user” really shouldn’t be equated with “Windows user” anymore.

From there the Digg crowds got involved, and the din in the blogosphere soon reached a deafening pitch.

Linux Girl put in her earplugs and headed down to the blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge for some more perspective.

‘Macs Are PCs’

“I absolutely hate ‘Mac vs PC,'” Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland exclaimed.

“Every time I hear this horrid terminology use I quickly interject to remind the person saying it that PC means Personal Computer,” Hoogland added. “Last I checked OSX was designed for personal computers, so their Mac is a ‘PC’ just as much as my Linux box.”

The Hunch study is particularly interesting because of the 23 percent of respondents who refused to classify themselves in either the “PC” or “Mac” camps, Hoogland opined.

Those users “are either using Linux — unlikely, as much as I hate to say it — or recognize what I already said is true: Macs are PCs (over priced ones at that!),” he concluded.

‘The PC Is Being Redefined’

“Of course a PC is a personal computer — a generic thing,” blogger Robert Pogson agreed. “Personal computers come with many operating systems or no OS. Folks who assume a PC has M$’s OS are ignorant or dupes of M$’s ‘technological evangelism.’

Microsoft “made itself the default platform by seducing software developers to work for M$ by writing code,” Pogson explained. “They sustained the monopoly by spreading FUD about other operating systems.”

Today, “M$ has the promotion of its software and the denigration of all other operating systems down to a science,” he added. “It has enlisted many layers of dupes in the ranks of academia, journalism, consultants, developers and technologists to spread the word in many subtle ways. We see it in astroturfing, FUD, patent-threats, and even SCOG v World.”

Such has been the magnitude of “this fortress of FUD,” in fact, that “it was all over until Android/Linux on ARM came along, doing an end-around/flanking operation,” Pogson opined.

Now, “while M$ is trying to catch up, the PC is being redefined,” he said. “A PC will soon be a small, cheap computer likely running GNU/Linux or Android/Linux on ARM.”

‘They Proved That When They Bought a Mac’

It’s not at all surprising that “a self-selected group of Mac users who like to take studies which characterize themselves are going to be perceivably ‘elitist’ and will have more expensive tastes,” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza told Linux Girl. “I think they proved that when they bought a Macintosh.”

Of course, “the percentage of Linux users is likely small enough to cause a minor site like Hunch to have problems finding a statistically significant set of them, and statistically, no one cares,” Espinoza added.

“While I find Linux to be great for desktops, I think it’s clear that its greatest successes to date have not been in that arena,” he pointed out. In addition, “I am also a Windows user, albeit recalcitrant; I have a netbook (subnotebook, really) which only runs Windows properly and I also dual-boot my desktop for gaming.”

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack wasn’t particularly surprised by the study, either.

“I have gotten used to the fact that people forget Linux people are here, even though I am seeing more of us out there,” Mack told Linux Girl. “Think about it: The stability of the Mac minus Steve Jobs’ control freakery plus I can perform network diagnostics in a way that I just can’t on Mac or Windows.”

‘A PC Is IBM-Compatible’

For Slashdot blogger hairyfeet, however, PCs and Windows go hand-in-hand.

To suggest otherwise, in fact, “is as silly as renaming a ‘manhole’ a ‘personhole,'” he asserted. “Sure they may have the same guts, but I have an old G3 with a Radeon card in it — does that suddenly make it a PC?”

Rather, “a Mac is a Mac, a PC is an ‘IBM-compatible personal computer,’ which is where the bloody name came from in the first place!” hairyfeet opined. “Is a Mac IBM-compatible? Not unless you toss the OS for Windows, in which case it is just a really expensive Windows machine.”

Instead of arguing over terminology, hairyfeet suggested, “we should ALL be pushing for standards to kill the massive ‘designed for the dump’ e-waste nightmare the OEMs are creating.

“Laptops should have standard form factors with standard parts, the same as ATX and mATX, ARM should be kept as a low-power embedded chip instead of trying to jam it into the X86 roles which it was never designed for, and we should demand replacement parts be made affordable and batteries should have standard sizes and connections,” he asserted.

‘PC Means Generic’

“I sure miss those ‘I’m a Mac, I’m a PC’ ads,” mused Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site. “I think they did a lot to create a perception that there’s a difference between Mac and PC users.”

The truth, however, “is that there are plenty of people who use Windows on their Mac,” she pointed out. “It’s the computing equivalent of KD — ‘mac and cheesy’…”

Much of the skew in user profiles between the two groups in Hunch’s study, meanwhile, is likely due to “Apple’s resurgence in colleges and universities over the last 5 years, which would tend to give Apple a younger user base,” Hudson suggested.

“As for assuming that a PC computer is a Windows computer, that definitely works for me,” she added. “To most people, ‘PC’ means a generic PC, and generic implies blah, lowest common denominator, bargain basement, no frills, shoddy, plain, drab.

“That’s why Apple computers aren’t seen as PCs, and fortunately neither are Linux computers,” Hudson explained. “To Linux users, Windows is just a driver for oddball multifunction printer/scanners.”

Of course, “in a few years ‘PC’ will refer to a ‘Pocket Computer’ running Android or iOS,” Hudson predicted. “Problem solved! Except … what will we call the ‘old PC’ then — aside from ‘obsolete’?”


  • Thank you! Its amazing how many supposed learned "tech folks" have completely forgotten their history. As one who started out with a Trash80 and VIC20 I was there for the birth of the "PC Clone/PC Compatible" and it was ALL based around the IBM 5150. It is amazing to me how many forget that it all comes down to a single machine from big blue that started it all.

    As for Macs being PCs? I live next to a heavily Mac college and right across the street from a coffee shop they hang out in. Sadly I can say many of those "Macs" are now running Windows 7 in boot camp more than they are running OSX. I have asked them why did they pay the "Apple tax" on a machine if they were only gonna run Windows, and in the end sadly it all comes down to status. I have actually watched them get into VERY ugly discussions over whether the MBP or the Air was "better" and again it came down to price and status.

    Hell maybe its just me, but as long as a computer does the job you need it to I couldn’t care less about what the price of the thing is. My biggest seller in the shop is a sub $150 Cruz Micro Android tablet. Most would consider that CCC (Cheapo Chinese Crap) but for the targeted demographic (women with kids) and the job they intend to use them for (checking email and reading books while junior plays on the swings) it works just fine. If Apple guys get a little jolly blowing huge amounts of money for an x86 box I say let them. Personally I’m quite happy with AMD and haven’t bought Intel in years.

  • It seems to me that, with about a 17 or 18 to 1 ratio of Windows users to OS X users, any comparison is nonsense. Mac users are not in the mainstream. Why they are not can be discussed, but to say that Windows users have type characteristics significantly different from Mac users seems wrong. With so many more users numerically, there is certainly a very wide range for any characteristic that you may name.

    I don’t think that anyone can name a single function of either a Windows PC or a Mac that the other platform cannot match.

    Before any of the tin foil hat crowd jumps in with "Security!" I might point out that the honeypot tests that Linux users are so proud of were first failed by Macs before Windows units succumbed.

    Macintosh computers are marketed as being more stylish, but they are also rather pricey compared to Wintel machines. They are perhaps akin to a Gucci purse or boot that just looks different from a more commercial offering.

  • Hairyfeet nailed this. PC is a specific reference to an IBM 5150 personal computer. Base on the Intel 8080 processor (the foundation for x86).

    PC is now a reference to a computer using PC (IBM 5150) compatible hardware.

    In the evolution of the computer world, PC Compatible and PC Clone were terms used. PC Compatible machines were 100% compatible with software written for the original PC. Early compatible machines used Intel chips. The instructions for the PC were reverse engineered to create cheaper clone chips by companies like Cyrix (now owned by VIA). They were not 100% compatible.

    AMD developed the x86 chip with Intel. When they wanted to make their own chip they were challenged by Intel and lost. AMD and Intel use the same base code. These are PC compatible (back to the original 5150).

    PC=Hardware platform, not software platform. I am using Linux software on a PC compatible.

    The original Mac had a different hardware platform. Recently Apple started using the x86 chip.

    In the scheme of things they are now PC Compatible.

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