14 Classic Tech Rivalries

Chip TaylorThe greatest rivalries are fascinating to observe--and they invite everyone to choose sides and argue the merits of their favorite. Think Athens vs. Sparta. Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees. Coke vs. Pepsi. Wile E. Coyote vs. the Roadrunner.

Technology has its feuds, too--some of them to the death. The most recent example is Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD. (Did you bet on the outcome while it was still in doubt and end up with an on-its-way-to-being-obsolete player?) Here's a proper requiem for that clash of titans: "HD DVD Falls to Blu-ray Disc."

Luckily I hadn't committed to either side in that duel. Narrow escape! But the epic struggle got me pondering great technology rivalries of the past. Which are better: Macs or PCs? Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer? Laptop eraserheads or notebook touchpads? In the instances where a clear winner emerged, did might triumph over right (Lotus 1-2-3 vs. Microsoft Office Excel)?

Other rivalries may never achieve a satisfactory resolution, which make them all the more entertaining--or frustrating. Each of our picks of classic tech rivalries in recent history identifies the main combatants, and then invites you to vote on your favorite. Accept our apologies if we left out one of your favorites (PC World vs. PC Magazine, anyone?). Please add your picks to this list in the Comments section of the story.

Mac vs. PC

What's So Great About a Mac?

Apple products are the computing equivalent of gourmet sausage: We don't want to know what's inside these beautiful, expensive computers--or what's going on beneath the surface of the sleek Mac OS X. When it works, it works magically. When it doesn't work, we go to yoga class and wait for the next update. Oh, okay. Not only do the current Macintosh computers come equipped with some of the fastest, best-designed hardware available anywhere, but they also carry a stable, powerful, easy-to-use operating system that so far seems to be fairly immune to the security flaws and threats that menace Windows users. Top software developers--including Adobe and even Microsoft--continue to develop products for the Macintosh, making Macs competitive with Windows PCs in the workplace. A few key business applications (AutoCAD, for example) still require Windows--but fortunately, Macs also run Windows quite nicely. Apple's proprietary hardware is expensive compared to PC hardware, but third-party systems running OS X may soon become a reality. And isn't that Mac guy in the "Get a Mac" Apple commercials hip?

What's So Great About a PC?

More than a computing platform, the PC is a wide-open, mix-and-match hardware and software eco-system that can accommodate everything from water-cooled, Internet-connected, planet-warming gaming systems, to itty-bitty portable PCs. Instead of choosing from the limited hardware offerings of one company (Apple), you can shop around among hundreds of competitors for the exact configuration you need--usually for less money than the equivalent Mac would cost. (And you don't have to succumb to the holier-than-thou attitude worn on the sleeves of Macolytes.) You can even dump Windows and use one of the many excellent Linux distributions available for free. What's not to like about choices (or for that matter, about the PC guy in the Apple "Get a Mac" commercials, the embodiment of every PC user's inner geek)?

What's So Great About the Sony PlayStation 2?

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