“I heard your debate on the radio on the Mac vs PC discussion and like the last caller, am just buying my first computer. How do I figure out which way to go?” – Katie

The battle between the Mac and Windows faithful is legendary and to this day is fiercer than ever.

As time goes on, the lines of distinction between the two operating systems continues to blur. What was once a dominant position in the world of graphics for the Mac and a dominant position in the world of business applications for Windows is no more.

Both are very capable of doing all of the tasks that the average Web-surfing, e-mailing, letter-writing, checkbook balancing, digital-photo taking user could want.

What was once a clearly dominant price difference (Windows systems in the past were significantly cheaper, especially at the low end) is narrowing.

Though zealots from both sides will deny it, the classic arguments for why you should choose one over the other have become watered down because of the gradual changes that have occurred on both sides.

What has not changed is the fact of who you are and what you plan to do with the computer will provide the clearest guidance.

Since you ultimately buy a computer to perform functions and both can perform common functions equally well, your decision tree should focus more on “what do I need this apparatus to do for me and what happens when I have a problem or question”.

Neither of these platforms will be at all obvious to a brand new computer user, so what you have as a support system once you get your computer could be your first key decision maker.

If all of your friends and family that will be helping you are running Windows and you buy a Mac (or vice versa), you clearly would be without a substantial support mechanism, so start by evaluating what your inner circle (that is willing to help you) uses.

If you don’t have anyone to turn to, you have two options: figure everything out by yourself via the school of hard knocks (the learning curve for simple functions is typically shorter for the Mac OS) or reach for resources such as Web sites, classes, and “dummy” books that can help you get up to speed.

Frankly speaking, general classes and books that cover broad subjects tend to be very unhelpful when you are sitting at a screen trying to decide which button you should click for a task that you wish to perform at that moment – which is when the real learning begins!

Mac fanatics will tell you how much easier their user interface is, but all you have to do is watch a Windows user struggle with the Mac OS to understand that it’s a relative term. Once you get familiar with either, the other seems very foreign.

Either side can take any specific task that their OS does better and sight that as the entire reason one should choose their side, which is why I refer to them as zealots.

If you want to learn how to use a computer for employment purposes, check to see which operating system is most prevalent in your line of work. In general, your better off learning how to exist in the Windows environment first as that is what the vast majority of employers will be running.

Anyone that tells you that the answer is crystal clear is oversimplifying things or is just plain naive. There are major benefits to both and there are major drawbacks to both.

Your challenge is to figure out which benefits and drawbacks will impact you the most and those that know you and your situation have the best chance of helping you make the right decision.