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Apple Moves Slowly, Surely Into Big Business

Just A Thought - Apple Moves Slowly, Surely Into Big Business

August 3rd, 2007

You may have felt it in your bones, knew it at some subconscious, subatomic level and wished that someone somewhere would take the time to find out for sure, then publish the results. Now someone has.

Macs have a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than PCs. Much lower.

It's not Apple saying it, or Mac fanboys with Apple logos tattooed to their scalps proclaiming it, it was the folks at CIO Magazine who posted the results of their study in their periodical. To wit:

"In 1999, for instance, Gistics released a landmark report analyzing Macs and PCs in terms of return on investment (ROI). Gistics' study was limited strictly to the publishing, graphics and new media fields. Among many other findings, the authors concluded that Mac creative professionals were producing $26,000 more each in annual revenues for their employers than their Windows counterparts.

Some six years later, soon after the advent of OS X, computer security expert Winn Schwartau created a widely publicized tool geared to helping companies in any industry measure the TCO of Macs versus Windows PCs. Schwartau emphasizes that results from the tool can vary considerably from one business to the next. But at his own small enterprise—then known as Interpact and now dubbed The Security Awareness Company—three-year TCO turned out to be twice as high for Windows than Mac.

Whether or not they've undertaken formal TCO or ROI studies, many customers today claim to be attaining substantial economic advantages from using Mac OS, either instead of or in conjunction with other OSes."

The article goes on to detail how Macs fair in each of eight characteristics used to determine TCO:

  • Cost: The real cost of a Mac versus a similarly equipped PC.
  • Licensing: Server and desktop software license fees.
  • Help desk calls: How often do end users requires service desk help?
  • Productivity: How work-efficient are the users of Macs compare to PC users?
  • Period of usefulness: How long with hardware and software remain useful and useable?
  • Security: How vulnerable to viruses and other malware?
  • Administration: How much effort does it take to set up and maintain Macs versus PCs?
  • Legacy integration: Can you keep using current software and OSes while upgrading to new hardware and software?

Macs shine in each of these categories. Read the article. It's an eye-opener.

Still, one of the reasons Apple has had a hard time getting into corporate server rooms and on Fortune 500 desktops is the notion that Macs aren't geared for big business. Regardless of the well publicized fact that all major types of business tools can be found running on Macs, large companies can't seem to remove the Microsoft/PC blinders. It's a case of sleeping with the devil you know versus one you don't; corporations have developed a relationship with PC vendors and Microsoft over the years since abandoning the centralized computing model where IBM mainframes ruled. Of late that relationship is being put to the test, however, as a somewhat cocksure Microsoft demands more from its customers while the perception of what it returns is less.

Many CIOs don't feel so loyal to the Redmond Realm as they once did, and some are actively looking for alternatives. Some have taken the Linux road, but however many advances Linux has made over the years it still suffers from the same perception that Macs running OS X does: It is not ready for business.

For Macs, at least, that perception may change. Mac OS X version 10.5, Apple's latest and soon-to-be-released OS, has been recently certified as being a 100 percent UNIX OS, and big business is familiar with UNIX.

Back when PCs used Intel 286 processors and ran Windows 3.1, Sun, IBM, and others had UNIX systems that promoted centralized computing, virtual servers and desktops, and shared managed storage -- everything that Microsoft is offering now. UNIX, however, has the advantage of history. It's been on the market for years and if ever there was an OS that's been tested in nearly every possible environment, UNIX is it.

Today IT departments in every medium to large business struggle to keep up with the demands for more storage and server resources, and ways to homogenized their computing environments to make it easier to manage even as they grows. Centralization under the guise of, and in concert with, virtualization is seen as the best way to keep users happy while the IT empire attempts to maintain a reasonable budget, and centralization and virtualization are two features UNIX excels at.

What Apple brings the table is a modernized version of UNIX, one that not only works well in almost any computing environment, but also offers companies with old, but needed hardware and software a graceful path to modernization.

So, a comparatively low total cost of ownership and a bona-fide UNIX OS is what Apple can present to big business. Will they bite? Few things in the IT world change over night and it will take some doing to get CIOs to change their views, but views are changing.

Recently, two very public switches from a Windows environment to Macs gave CIOs everywhere something to think about: Auto Warehousing Co. began replacing PCs with Macs after CIO, Dale Frantz, determined that he could reduce IT costs while improving system reliability by switching.

Winn Schwartau swapped out PCs for Macs in his company, Security Awareness Co., after becoming frustrated with unreliable technology and having to dodge malware.

Others are considering switching: The US Department of Transportation started looking into either moving to Linux or Macs running Mac OS X after determining that Vista won't run some needed legacy applications.

These may seem like big wins for Apple, but in reality they are small steps, but steps in the right direction nonetheless.

Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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