Hardware Platform Review

May 6, 2003

At the request of the dean, the CTiTL committee reviewed the Faculty's choice of hardware. The pros and cons of both platforms (Mac and Wintel) were presented. After considerable debate and discussion, the committee suggests to continue with the Mac platform.

The arguments are these: To make the switch to Wintel systems would require considerable overhead in terms of capitol, retraining time, and infrastructure retooling (on the technical, administrative, and academic side). The rationale for changing to Wintel has one strong argument; that argument suggests that Wintel systems are what most school systems have. This can't be discounted but the counter argument is that there is nothing compelling that can not be done on the Mac (at least yet). A related part of that argument is that it really doesn't matter the platform, as much as learning how to apply the technology in useful ways. The features of the operating systems and hardware are comparable, both Windows and OSX fulfill their purposes equally well. The price range is in the same ball park with the Mac being arguably a bit more expensive but typically comes with more built-in functionality (e.g. firewire and the I-life suite). The hardware and software are changing rapidly so it is difficult to account for all possible options, technology is a moving target. From an instructional perspective, what we want to teach students, is principles, not specific skills. Specific skills will be different no matter where students go anyway; we can't possibly teach for all the different setups that out there (there is considerable variation in operating systems and applications, even on Window systems). A further argument suggests that everything is going towards the Web anyway, and the Mac and Wintel systems both have compatible ways of accessing it and publishing to it, so that tends to down play the need to switch - the Internet acts a common interface for communication.

As a result of this debate the recommendation went forward to continue to use the Macintosh platform. In addition, it was suggested that it would be unwise to review this issue each year - perhaps every fourth year or if there was a compelling reason to rethink this decision.