As many as 52 per cent of Mac users continue to use Windows PCs at work, according to Macworld Online's most-recent reader poll.

The poll saw 1,690 votes cast. 24 per cent of voters (405) have never used Windows, only Macs; 18 per cent of voters (18 per cent) claim to have switched to Mac from Windows; just two per cent (38) of voters are moving from Mac to Windows; and three per cent (55) of voters still use another form of Unix, as well as Mac.

Voter comments focused on the need to use Windows PCs at work, except in certain specialized industries, such as publishing, art and design.

"I use a Wintel PC at work; in fact, this is being typed on one. Hopefully, our system won't crash before I finish. Unfortunately, we have in excess of 1,100 computers here, so there is no way will we ever go over to Macs fully."

"I have no choice but to use Windows at work - the old duffers here aren't likely to ever look at a Mac and see it as anything other than a fashionable toy, no matter how hard we try to show them otherwise."

Apple - a corporate blind-spot PCs are commonplace in corporate and business set-ups. Historically, this is because Microsoft has been happy to exercise its corporate muscle to ensure extensive sales of products supporting its systems. The company also offers word processing, presentation and email solutions that have become synonymous with working life in the form of its Office and Outlook products.

"With PCs you have a fixed cost of Microsoft software and the variable, negotiable cost of hardware. It is the hardware issue that is the biggest problem. Bulk PC buyers can shop around for the best deal - they can ask suppliers for a quote for PCs of a certain specification, and ask what the support costs will be. PC sellers can be flexible and tailor a package to get the deal.

"Macs may be cheaper in the long run. It is just that you can compare cost on that basis much easier. If you buy a fleet of Macs the chances are the vendor can offer you a tiny difference in hardware cost and software costs. On top of that the Mac vendor is selling a system that is fairly marginal. The problem for Apple sellers worldwide is that their prices are set in California," one reader observed.

Another reader observed: "We all got sold a dooberry with the IBM PC clone thing. IT departments in business and education are notoriously conservative and driven by short-term economics. PCs and their software are too cheap to be ignored by the mass-market, and the long-term consequences are of no consequence, if you see what I mean. So, we mainly get second best, not a Mac."

Total cost of ownership is crucial. A reader wrote: "I still use PCs as I have a couple of them, but they are expensive to run in comparison to my blue-&-white G3 Power Mac and my PowerBook. The Mac lifecycle is longer than that of PCs, and Windows machines tend to have more bugs and virus problems in comparison with Macs."

Mac marketing mix-up Apple is partially to blame, some voters believe: "Apple has never seriously entertained marketing itself to the finance industry, and it shows. Hopefully its Unix-OS-base will make it more attractive to the bean counters as they consider moving away from Microsoft's monopoly to Linux - there is always hope."

Apple did make a stab at expanding into corporate markets around 1995: "Some remember Apple's TV advertising campaign that showed a geek in accounts with a green-rubber martian on top of his PowerPC being asked by the boss what a Mac is doing in the office. The punchline was that it does spreadsheets,"

The company's award-winning marketing campaigns have attracted criticism. Apple's current focus on the consumer market is also noteworthy, some readers believe: "Apple has been catering to the home market more for a few years now. Most home use is as a toy. The machines also have not had the bang for the buck that people have expected from computers. Maybe this will change when the new processors are released."

Some switchers and home users had their own take on the Mac/Windows debate: "I switched to the Mac for one reason - to have a rest from Windows problems. I am an IT support worker working for several industrial IT set-ups."

"I purchased a PC about seven years ago, and it did OK. Finally I switched to Mac (about three years ago) when I moved jobs and had the chance to develop a new strategy from scratch as we ditched all the BBC and Acorn computers. The Mac choice is a no-brainer and I will never go back to PC as my machine of choice, although I still encounter them as we have five or six here that we cannot get rid of (only due to PC specific software that we need to run).

"Buying Mac was a very clever decision - one that I have never regretted - and probably never will."

One voter had extensive knowledge of different OSs: "Windows 3.1-XP (yuck), Linux (penguins are good), Unix (nice, but it costs too much and the user interface sucks), Irix (worst OS I've ever used) and Mac OS. I've used them all and I choose to use Mac."

One reader, a graphic designer at an education support department has been using Macs for 15 years. At one point in that time he was forced to adopt a PC to "make me more compatible". "Every time I needed to commercially print, it was back to the Mac," he revealed. Eventually, the PC plans were scrapped and this user kept his Mac. "I now run a Power Mac G4 with OS X on a Novell network after years of resistance from the system administrators - it's no big deal."

Cross-platform, or just cross? There are changes afoot: "I would say both platforms are closer than they have ever been, and Longhorn will narrow that gap," wrote one.

"I have both platforms on my desk at work, but have found I'm moving more and more to the PC, basically because I have more software for the PC. However, the move has caused me more problems that it has solved, and PageMaker is a real nightmare on PC (not much better on Mac)," another voter observed.

Many users have been using Macs for most of their computing life, one wrote: "Apart from a Commodore 64 I've only ever owned Macs, through school, college and University they were all I ever used. I'm now a multimedia designer, so I'm forced to test things on a PC. I hate it ever time I go near it.

"I know it sounds stupid and over the top, but I really do hate PCs - everything about them," the voter wrote.