Are Macs the mainstay or the bonus?

Market research firm NPD put out a study earlier this week about the market penetration of various PC brands, which was full of all sorts of interesting information, but the one that was most interesting to me was that almost 85 percent of households with Macs also have at least one Windows PC. (And no, the reverse is not also true.)

The question, of course, is what this might mean. If you're a Mac hater, I'm guessing your first response would be that Macs are toys, and that you need a PC if you want to get real work done. While my take on it is obviously more Applephilic, I will admit that my household is in that 85 percent for exactly that reason: for quite a while, some of my freelance clients required me to work with Web applications that only worked in IE on Windows, and my Macs at the time just weren't powerful enough to run Virtual PC (yes, this was pre-Intel) in a meaningful way.

The legacy of this era is that I now have two computers: a year-old MacBook and a creaky five-year-old IBM (yes, IBM!) ThinkPad. Of course, in these days of Web standards, nobody makes use a Windows/IE app any more, and if they did, I could just install Parallels for a lot less than buying a Windows computer. But I do have a wife, and we do like to be online at the same time, so the ThinkPad is still well-used, even if it is getting pretty long in the tooth.

And that brings up the next question, relevant to these numbers: what do we replace it with? Of course, I'd love to get a unibody MacBook Pro (the kind that was introduced mere weeks after I bought my current laptop) to use as my main computer and demote the current MacBook to secondary status. But that would be spendy. The cheaper thing to do, of course, would be to get a Windows laptop. Yes, I know, foaming Mac fanboys: same price for identical performance, blah blah blah; you don't have to convince me. But the thing is, there really is an entry-level $500-600 laptop slot that simply doesn't exist in the Mac marketplace; but that's all we really need for our secondary computer, seeing as all it gets used for is Web surfing and occasional light word processing. Thus, I'm convinced that in many modern-day households, the Windows computer is a less powerful (and cheaper) secondary computer, whereas the Mac is the workhorse.

But maybe I'm extrapolating too much from my own experience. What's it like in your house?

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