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Mac vs. Windows for Kids - The User Friendliness Factor

By Jack M. Germain MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 29, 2006 4:00 AM PT

Computers are as much a part of a child's lifestyle as school and sports contests with friends. Parents may wonder what computer is best suited for their younger children.

Mac vs. Windows for Kids - The User Friendliness Factor

Although Windows remains the dominant operating system for consumers, the Mac has been steadily gaining market share. In addition, the popularity of Apple's iPod draws both young and old to the Apple product line.

When parents choose a Mac for their children over a Windows-based computer, the deciding factors often include increased security and user friendliness.

The Mac Lineup for Kids

Based on design and feature sets, three Mac models stand out for kids, according to Teresa Brewer, public relations manager for Apple's Mac hardware division.

  • Mac Mini (starting at US$599) -- comes with the Intel Core Duo processor. Its tiny size, which approximates the shape of an external hard drive, gives kids maximum portability in the car and the house.
  • iMac (starting at $999) -- includes a built-in iSight video camera for video conferencing; also comes with the Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
  • The MacBook (starting at $1,099) -- comes with a 13 inch, glossy wide-screen display, a built-in iSight video camera, iLife and Front Row video and music software packages, the sudden motion sensor, scrolling track pad and MagSafe power adapter.

All three come bundled with video, music and productivity applications that will appeal to children.

iMac vs. MacBook

The leader in desktop sales for kids is the iMac, while the top pick in laptops is the MacBook, said Dan de Grandpre, founder of Dealnews.com.

Despite Apple's hopes for a brisk response to its Mac Mini, most parents seem to be shying away from the 6.5 inch by 2 inch computer, noted de Grandpre. Instead, consumers are buying the Mac Mini as a second computer for themselves.

"The Mac Mini looks too much like a gadget for kids," de Grandpre told MacNewsWorld.

The iMac is particularly attractive to parents, he said, because of its one-piece construction and cleaning ease. Parents like the desktop computer rather than a laptop for their children because of durability concerns, he added.

"Kids can do a lot of damage to a laptop," he explained. "What's really great about the iMac desktop is its lack of ports in the front. There is nothing accessible for kids to fill with peanut butter."

Classroom Skills

Mark Gibson is an award-winning computer teacher and technology coordinator at Indian Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis. He works with students in grades one through five and trains teachers on how to better integrate computer technology. This double exposure has given him insight into how youngsters take to the Mac compared to PCs running Windows.

He splits his pupils' time between Mac- and Windows-based computers each week and prefers teaching on the Mac. When he teaches in the Mac computer room -- which contains 30 iMacs -- the students react well to the Mac-based programs that are designed for youngsters.

The Mac's easier operating instructions encourage the kids to work more productively and quickly, he said.

Gibson bases learning activities around both Mac-only programs and the Microsoft Office suite, which is cross-platform. He starts their computing lessons on Windows computers; however, when given the choice, students prefer to work on the iMac.

"Kids have more freedom to set up their computing environment and set program choices on that platform," said Gibson. "The iMac is best overall."

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