*nix is becoming more and more of an option, but for now, I'd say that
almost all of the development tools that are available can be used on
the Wintel platform(s). They might also have a version that works under
linux, etc., but the most prevalent environment at present is Wintel.
The question you should really be asking, though, is what sort of
robot-maker are you? If you're an assembly sort of person, you can get
ICE (in circuit emulators) for several microcontrollers. If you're as
new to the subject as your question implies (no offense intended), you
should consider Wintel and something like the Parallax BASIC Stamp to
Also, look on the web for a robotics club in your area. If everyone in
your area uses Mac/Handyboard for their stuff, then you'd probably be
able to get more aid from them if you were using the same tools.