About a year ago I bought a Mac mini for a variety of reasons. And yes buying a Mac appears to cost more than a Windows machine, but does it really? I had been running a virtual machine to preserve my software investment, but it was getting a little long in the tooth. So I started looking to upgrade my Microsoft applications. Talk about sticker shock. Here's what I was running and what I ended up buying:
Microsoft Office - $349 vs. iWork $79 + OpenOffice $0
iWorks is much easier to use and Pages puts out much better looking documents. It kind of works exchanging formats with Office. When I need to edit complex Office documents from others, I fire up OpenOffice. It works great. Be warned that OpenOffice looks like it was written by a bunch of Sun Unix engineers. It ain't pretty, but it works very well under the hood.
Microsoft Project Professional- $779 vs. Merlin 2 $210
Not only does Merlin read and write Project files with no problems, the UI is much, much better and easier (and more colorful) to use.
Adobe CS4 Standard upgrade - $499 vs. Adobe CS4 Standard upgrade $499
I use In Design and Illustrator a lot. My CS2 is running on an XP virtual machine. Turns out Adobe will let me upgrade from XP to OSX no problem. Something Microsoft won't let me do (I'm running Office 2003) and move to Mac.
So here's the total cost of software: Microsoft $1,624 vs. Mac $788. That's a difference of $836. Which means you can get a Mac Mini for free and pocketed $237.
The main use I have for running XP now is to run my 2003 version of Microsoft Visio. It's a fantastic product and there is no Mac alternative that I have found. But that means the VM only needs to get fired up about once a month now.