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Despite common wording in the computer industry, a Mac is a type of personal computer, manufactured and marketed by Apple in several models.

In general usage within the computer industry, and particularly by Mac users, PCs are considered to be IBM-compatible computers, while Macs are another creature altogether. Although Macs are personal computers, the term PC has been applied strictly to IBM-compatible computers, most of which come shipped with the Microsoft operating system today, while Macs use a proprietary OS, currently macOS, a UNIX-type operating system developed by Apple.

Macs have always been personal computers but, at one time, only the operating system supplied by Apple could be installed on a Mac, and only Mac programs could be used, while PCs could run DOS, Windows, or pretty much any Linux distribution, as well as a myriad of alternative operating systems.

Today, it is possible to installed Windows on a Mac. In fact, Apple once boasted that Windows would run better on a Mac. Both Windows and macOS can be installed on an iMac or MacBook, and users can switch between them or run them side-by-side.

More accurately, installed Windows on a Mac requires the use of supplementary software. Parallels is an emulation software that allows the user to run Windows on top of the Mac operating system, while Bootcamp sets up a partition and boots directly to either the Mac or Windows OS.

So, while the term PC stands for personal computer, and could be applied equally to Macs, Windows machines, or personal computers running other operating systems, in the common vernacular a PC is an IBM-compatible machine, while Macs are uniquely Apple products.

Because a large number of manufacturers produce IBM-compatible PCs and the vast majority of them ship with Windows preinstalled, the Apple Mac computers have a very small share of the personal computer market, less than ten percent in 2019.

Because Windows has the largest share of the market, a larger selection of computer programs are available for Windows than for Mac, given that Windows programs enjoy a much larger market. On the positive side, for Mac users, popularity works both ways. Coders of viruses and other malicious software also want to target the larger audience, so Mac machines encounter fewer viruses, trojans, worms, and other types of malware.

Since all Macs are produced by Apple, Mac buyers have fewer choices. Although Apple has produced several other machines over the years, as of 2020, Apple offers just five computer lines: the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, the Mac mini, the iMac, and the Mac Pro, although there are other configurations of some of these, for a total of eighteen unique computers.

When it was introduced in 2008, the MacBook Air was positioned between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro, but when the MacBook was discontinued in 2011, the MacBook Air became Apple's entry-level laptop, identified as a notebook. Although less powerful than the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air uses the same operating system and is compatible with the same programs.

Slightly more expensive, the MacBook Pro is currently available in two configurations, with 13" and 16" screens. From 2006 to 2012, a 17" screen size was also available. As compared to most PC laptops, the MacBook Pro is a powerful machine.

The Mac mini is one of four Macintosh desktop computers. The Mac mini is the only Apple desktop computer, since 1998, to ship without a display, keyboard, or mouse. Although there are two purchase options for buyers of the Mac mini, besides price, the differences are in the processor speed, memory, and storage. Mac mini components fit into a 7.70" x 7.70" x 1.40" case.

The first iMac was sold in 1998. The all-in-one desktop computer is available in 21.5" and 27" screen models, although the larger option is also a higher-powered machine.

The iMac Pro is an all-in-one personal computer and workstation with a 27" screen. In terms of power and speed, it sits between the iMac and the Mac Pro.

Introduced in 2019, the Mac Pro is Apple's most powerful computer, available in a tower or rack. The high-end desktop is more expandable than the iMac, designed for professionals who need to build high-bandwidth capabilities into their systems. Although the Mac Pro does not ship with a display, it does ship with a keyboard and mouse, and a trackpad is optional.

Apple also produces the iPad mini, iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Pro, using its iOS mobile operating system.

The primary retail outlet for Mac computers is the Apple Store, which can be found in most US states and eleven countries. Because Apple Stores are located only in large population centers, the company has entered into on-again, off-again agreements with various electronics chains. However, Macs are not available at several of the stores that sell PCs. Apple products may also be ordered online.


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