We are currently working with several school districts on district-level planning for future library automation. One of the issues which arises in almost every case is the future of Apple. Should Apple/OS be mandated as the operating system for the desktop?
As recently as five years ago Apple dominated the school market, but a recent report by Carol Cotton & Associates Consulting determined that as of mid-1997 over 53 percent of the 8.4 million PCs installed in schools were PCs. Further, school officials interviewed estimated that 68 percent of the nearly 900,000 computers they will purchase in 1997 will be PCs with Windows.
Apple's grip on the school market has been affected not only by the declining confidence in its future, but also by the fact that far more students use IBM PCs at home than Macs. Parents are beginning to question why there is a difference in operating systems and user interfaces between home and school.
Apple continues to be easier for the first-time user, but there are fewer and fewer of those; and Windows is becoming increasingly more user friendly. There is a wider range of applications software available for the PC environment-especially so with regard to library automation. While Apple does retain a lead in imaging, that lead is also shrinking as Pentium PCs with 32 and 64 MB of memory for under $2,500 become available.
Our recommendation usually is to specify PCs for library staff because there are more PC-based products available for library automation and other applications common in libraries. We usually recommend Web-based patron access catalogs so that patron access can be from either a Mac or a PC.