But taking a look at the keyboard, Alienware wins handily. The travel on the keys is better, the board is bigger and the layout is cleaner. Trust me, if you battle repetitive stress injuries the way I do, Alienware's the way to go.

As to software, yes, Apples run Apple code and they run Windows, Linux and whatever else. But if you're getting a Mac to run Windows XP, you're not making the ideal choice.

Apple does have software -- Boot Camp and Parallels -- that run both XP and Mac OS. But you'll tie up a ton of hard-drive space to fit both operating systems on a single computer.

Plus, Parallels splits the dual core processor into two sides, one for Windows and one for Mac, which defeats the purpose of getting a dual-core processor. You'll see significantly slower performance running software in Parallels. What's worse, Parallels does not support all the Windows add-on software like Active X.

And Apple as a company will not and cannot support the customer services issues that arise on dual-mode programs. If you have a problem in dual-boot mode on a Mac, you'd better hope you're right with the universe, because you'll be on your own.

The headaches worsen if you're using Apple computers on a mixed network. In my shop we are, yes, "plagued" by the incompatibilities of file formats, Web-coding standards, delivery specifications and transfer protocols. Apples work great, but trust me, you do not want to share my struggles with Apple running on a virtual private network, or getting Apple-specified audio files to work outside of Apple equipment.

For the occasional Windows program running on an Apple, dual-mode Apple solutions are great. But if you're working with crucial information -- like your money -- you can be asking for it if you plan to run Windows for an extended period on a Mac.

Here's the truth: Apples are just like any other computer. They do some things very well, and other things not so well. Pretending otherwise is just obstinacy.

If Apple as a company -- and as a culture -- cannot transition from its chip-on-the-shoulder past into a legitimate major market brand that does not bully and litigate against those who disagree with it, the company is doomed to become like Jack Nicholson's Col. Nathan Jessep in A Few Good Men: a hero whose damaged life renders him a fearful bigot who destroys all the greatness he fought so long and hard for.

In the new world of a rising Apple, the company, and its enthusiastic fans -- you know who you are -- need to take a cue from your own marketing.

Think different, not "better."

Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.
Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.

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