Enterprise Mac vs. PC; at what cost?

Sections: Computers, Desktops, Features, Hardware, Software / Applications

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Bill and Steve
Last week I looked at how businesses are taking a hard look at their current machines and wondering what to do next. More than just a Mac vs. PC post, many commented on how MS left the door open or that Jobs is a dope. Today we’ll look at actual cost comparisons for both hardware and software. Can a case be made to switch? Is Apple moving from a B2C model to a B2B one? I’ll avoid the question of should they.

Hardware Cost:
Much has been written about this, so I’ll not reinvent the wheel. Here are some points made by folks way smarter than I:

Scot Finnie of Computerworld wrote:

The main point I was trying to make is that when you compare Macs with comparably equipped Windows PCs, sometimes Macs beat Windows PCs in the price/performance comparison. Sometimes Windows PCs beat Macs. Overall, there’s relative parity.

Chris Kerins of says:

“When you can get an even comparison, you’ll find that sometimes the Mac comes out ahead and sometimes the PC comes out ahead. What that means to me is for the time being, price really isn’t the issue people seem to make it. Yes, Apple used to have significantly higher priced products, but especially since switching to Intel, they are in the same ballpark as the PC. After reading all the comparisons on the web that I have, I’m calling it a draw.”

Ok, so hardware seems to be somewhat of a non starter. So if the deciding factor is software, there has to be at least two components: cost and usability.
Software Cost:
Getting more business-specific Graham Yellowley, director of technology services at investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, explains it is not just about cost of a machine, it is everything that goes along with it, in short: software.He said:

“There would have to be a seismic shift in total cost of ownership to force a number of companies to jump from PC to Mac. The cost of transition is another barrier to wholesale change.”

From the same article, Alan Shrimpton, head of IS at Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said:

“Many of our applications are mandated on us by existing national contracts and they are all based on a Windows desktop. However, from a personal perspective, if I didn’t have that constraint then I would certainly want to look at all of my desktop options including Apple Macs.”

Here is where things get interesting and is really the meat of the debate, at least for me. A family member of mine work in a IT help desk arena and I am always astonished at the horror stories from PC users who just can’t “get it”. The training doesn’t stick, they call far too much, they lie about reboots…it goes on and on. So the big question to me is, are Macs as easy to use as the now ubiquitous iPod. Put another way, if Apple can bowl over everyone by making tech so simple, can they repeat it in a Mac vs. PC scenario?

Jacqueline Emigh, writing for offers up this quote as to proof why the Help Desk will get fewer calls:

“Even little children are able to use Macs. A kid can open up ‘Johnny’s folder,’ and there are Johnny’s little docs and applications,” says Roger Kay, president of market intelligence firm Endpoint Technologies.

To rebuke that article, Lynn Greiner also in refutes the Mac with fear of incompatible sites and software and writes:

The Apple world has been becoming less insular each year, and the Mac market share has been growing. But right now, it hasn’t quite achieved that critical mass that will make it an economical choice for mainstream business.

There are lots more examples of why to escape to a Mac from PCland, thanks to PC’s dominance. It is the classic the grass is always greener. But look at this fact, wander into an Apple store and head over the kids section. Watch the kids hog the Macs playing games and word puzzles. Just playing. Now hop to Staples, see anyone playing? Heck, see anyone smiling? Something is going on there and it has everything to do with usability.

More questions than answers?
So with that, readers what do you see tipping the scales to make you stay on the PC side or swing over the Mac side? Is it being happy with what a PC does today? Is it too big a task to change over for too little benefit? Are the costs out of whack in my references above? Give us your thoughts.

Prepare for next Thursdays: Mac vs. PC in the mobile market: who do you want at your side?

Here is a joke I found funny:
“Apple vs. Microsoft”
Three Microsoft engineers and three Apple employees are traveling by train to a computer conference. At the station, the three Microsoft engineers each buy tickets and watch as the three Apple employees buy only a single ticket. “How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?” asks a Microsoft engineer. “Watch and you’ll see,” answers the Apple employee. They all board the train. The Microsoft engineers take their respective seats, but all three Apple employees cram into a restroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, “Ticket, please.” The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes the ticket and moves on.

The Microsoft engineers saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the Microsoft engineers decide to do the same on the return trip and save some money. When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the Apple employees don’t buy any ticket, at all. “How are you going to travel without a ticket?” asks one perplexed Microsoft engineer. “Watch and you’ll see,” answers an Apple employee. When they board the train the three Microsoft engineers cram into a restroom and the three Apple employees cram into another one nearby. The train departs. Shortly afterward, one of the Apple employees leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the Microsoft engineers are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, “Ticket, please…”

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  • Ariel

    Unfortunately, what it will take for the Mac to push into enterprise in a big way is… More support from Microsoft.

    Let me explain. I'm an IT consultant. I'm a huge mac head. I use a mac at work (on a Windows domain). The ONLY thing that keeps me from being able to work on the mac full time (and I see it with our few clients who use mac) is the crippled Office that MS created for the mac.

    Here are just a few things that Outlook/Office for PC can do that the mac just can't:

    1) Task assignment, tracking and sharing. Entourage just doesn't work with Exchange tasks.

    2) Microsoft Access. There is no way to work on an Access database on the mac.

    3) IE. No recent IE for the mac means no Remote Web Workplace (although there is an RDP client for mac, thank goodness), no SharePoint and no VirtualServer administration. Not to mention Microsoft's network of sites (to include TechNet and support) often simply don't work right on any browser other than IE.

    These three gotchas mean I still have to either run a Parallels VM, or have a Windows computer at work that I can remote into.

    What's it going to take? Microsoft to stop crippling the software they produce for the Mac.

  • Matt

    You're kidding me, right? The hardware cost is comparable?? Okay, for every piece of pro-Mac fanboy propaganda I see like this on the Internet, I'm going to have to start setting the record straight.

    You know what? I'm not a PC fanboy. I don't like Windows. In fact, I think Microsoft sucks at making software (and even more at making hardware). But this is a fact of the matter: Macs are overpriced. WAY overpriced.

    I do a lot of multimedia work (3D modeling & animation, audio production, and video production) and when I recently purchases a Canon 5D Mark II camera which shoots 1080p HD (h.264), my current PC could not handle the H.264 HD video. So I started researching new systems. All the propagandists (like yourself) said I should get Mac Pro.

    But when I looked deeper, I found I could get a PC with the EXACT SAME COMPONENTS (same brand name/manufacturer and everything) as the Mac Pro. And you know what? The Mac version of my computer is $2800. Mine (ordered from was $1000 (running Vista 64). Works like a charm.

    People might not even be aware, but the "Nehalem" processors used by Apple are just another name for the Core i7 ones used in PCs. Same processor. Same RAM. Same graphics card. Different pricetag. Riddle me that?

  • JG Mason

    Matt, thanks for taking on the internet to defend Windows. This piece is a bit dated, being 17 months old and all but cool.

    I am pretty sure I did not tell you to get a Mac Pro. I didn't even mention your name, Matt, although, sure it was implied that everyone should obviously go buy a Macbook Pro, duh.

    You totally should have gotten a Mac Book dude. Then you'd be off living your iLife, not defending Windows for the net.

    Keep rockin

  • Matt

    Last I checked, price differences for hardware have not changed much in 17 months. Are you stating that, in the past year, your argument has been invalidated?

    Also, last I checked, I did not defend Windows once in my comment. Matter of fact, I said "I don't like Windows." Interesting. Very interesting.

    Step 1: Learn to read.
    Step 2: Learn math so that when you "look at actual cost comparisons" (of which I see no actual cost comparisons in your blog post), those little squiggly lines (they are called numbers) will make sense to you and you will see that some are bigger than others.

    This is why I don't really bother trying to use logic or reasoning with Mac-heads, but I will continue posting the reality on sites like this anyway, in case people who are actually doing research and thinking for themselves come across the sites and happen to read the comments.

  • Bryan

    I don't have anything to say other than that Matt is gay.