Computer hardware and operating systems are the foundation upon which the rest of the technology tools are based. Selecting the right foundation is critical to effectively equipping creative and collaborative activities. The choice often begins with deciding on a general platform — desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, or integrated device (e.g., smartphone). The other main base choice is for operating systems. The tables below provides a brief comparison of choices.
The quick recommendation would be that a laptop or desktop provides the necessary flexibility and computing performance when equipping multimedia content editing and creation. Desktops provide greater capabilities at a lower price while laptops provide greater flexibility. Indeed, as more individuals move towards smaller, lighter computing platforms, access to desktops or full-sized laptops in public computing becomes increasingly important to provide the access to resources supporting content creation. Look for computers with 2+ gigabytes (GB) of memory and 1.8 gigahertz (GHz) or greater dual core processors to support most multimedia software available today.
As for operating systems, either Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac OS X remain the primary choices for multimedia creation. With Windows 7, the differences between the two operating systems continues to shrink. While Windows continues to dominate the desktop/laptop market, Mac OS X provides a richer set of software to support creative activities out of the box.
Desktop All-in-one Laptop Netbook Tablet Integrated Device Brief Definition Computer separate from monitor, keyboard, mouse Computer and monitor combined but otherwise like desktop Traditional portable computer integrating keyboard, mouse, monitor Small laptop used for network access (no CD drive, small hard drive) Device the size of a laptop but primarily using a touchscreen input Small devices that combine functions (e.g., iPhone, iPod touch, Droid)
Strengths Best computing power for price; greatest flexibility for use and upgrading Integration minimizes space on desk and clutter of wires; provides some portability Provides considerable portability with flexibility of use similar to desktop Very portable with long battery life; traditional keyboard input; value as Internet portal Especially good for accessing content from anywhere Brings together phone, MP3 player, camera/camcorder, Internet access into one small device
Weaknesses Requires dedicated, primarily fixed space More expensive than desktop; not as portable as laptop; difficult to upgrade More expensive than desktop; difficult to upgrade Small screen can be hard to read; Lack of CD Drive Difficult to use for composing extended text; limited ability to produce multimedia Compromises on quality for most features
Recommended Uses Main tool for general purpose computing and for most multimedia production Valuable for limited space scenarios where traditional desktop is still needed Main tool for general purpose computing/multimedia production when portability is required Valuable tool for basic input while in the field when weight and space is at a premium Valuable tool for consumption of content; advantages for augmented reality applications Valuable personal tool for quick access to a range of media
Operating System Windows Mac OS X Linux Not Applicable Not Applicable
Mobile Device Version Windows Mobile iOS Android Symbian Blackberry
Advantages The desktop version still dominates the marketplace -- familiarity; vast array of compatible software; widely supported Easy to learn if unfamiliar with any technology; desktop version comes packaged with software to produce a range of multimedia content; tight integration of software and hardware improve reliability and facilitate rapid resolution of problems. Free but good quality software. Freedom extends to adapting software to new uses, allowing for highly customized applications. Most widely used mobile operating system lends to easy transition between hardware devices. Security and enterprise-grade applications provide a strong platform for corporate mobile computing. Many apps are written for this popular mobile operating system.
Disadvantages Design for corporate computing model doesn't always apply as well to other types of use. Historic challenges of security have been corrected in newest versions. Historic tendency to use monopoly in desktop market to implement proprietary protocols has also been reduced. Many software and some hardware are not yet written to support operating system. iOS requires Apple approval of software before it can run on mobile devices. Limited software and hardware support (although there are often free versions that have been written that duplicate commercial software functions) Flexibility in customizing operating system means there isn't one Linux, but many, creating potential confusion amongst users. Limited capabilities and not always intuitive Not as user friendly as iOS. Touch screen capabilities are still pretty limited.
NOTE: Apple computers can readily be setup to run the Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux operating system. PCs can only be readily configured to run the Windows and Linux operating systems.