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The current state of Mac use in higher education

Apple used to own the Higher Education market throughout the 80s and early 90s. Apple eventually took a back seat to the lower-priced Dell product line, but all of that is changing. According to a Group Logic Inc. survey of IT professionals at 125 North American colleges and universities, use of Macs on campuses has risen and will continue to rise. Between 2009 and 2010, Mac usage increased by 18 percent and is expected to rise by another 20 percent over the next five years. The reason most often given for the recent sharp increase was as a reaction to Microsoft's Vista operating system, which was considered problematic (to use the nicest word I could think of) by students and IT alike.

The survey was collected from fairly large institutions, averaging about 16,500 students. On average, 31 percent of students and 24 percent of faculty are currently using Macs on campus. An August report by Student Monitor stated that 27 percent of laptops found on campus were Macs, 24 percent were made by Dell, and 15 percent were Hewlett Packards, easily giving Apple the lion's share of the Higher Education laptop market. The study also found that nearly half of students in the market for a laptop said that they would buy a Mac. Compare that with a survey done in 2005, where only 14 percent of students queried were interested in a Mac laptop, and about half said they were buying a Dell.

Windows is still the most prevalent operating system, but the gap is closing. Student Monitor reported that in 2003, over 2500 institutions were using Windows, while only 200 used Macs. By 2008, the gap closed dramatically, with about 2000 institutions using Windows and 1100 using Macs; only a year later, 1700 schools were using Windows compared to 1400 using Macs.

What wasn't mentioned in any survey (and seemed a rather obvious thing to leave out): the "halo effect." A major motivating factor in students buying Macs is that so many of them have iPods, iPhones, or iPads and have been impressed by them, making Macs a much easier sell.

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