A “Mac vs. PC” debate is raging in the Carteret County (NC) school system. In fact, a debate on the issue took up two hours of a school board workshop Tuesday.
A group of citizens, most pro-Macintosh, have protested the county school system’s choice to replace aging Macs with Dell PCs, according to a
Carteret County News-Times
article, which adds that they’ve questioned the cost and efficiency of such a move. Currently, the school system has 2,371 Macs and 1,147 Wintel systems.
Reporter Cheryl Burke writes that Thomas Colven, a citizen who spoke on behalf of Mac users, said his concerns boiled down to four main issues: Macs are more user friendly; Macs have fewer problems; Macs aren’t as susceptible to computer viruses; and they cost less.
Joe Poletti, director of technology for the county school system, said he and a technology committee decided to move toward PCs for several reasons, according to the “News-Times” article. First, when Apple switched to iMacs in 1998 it caused several problems for the school system, including: a RAM shortage; problems with a unified shell design; lack of a floppy drive; and base price warranty was 90-days, with box and drop service.
The newspaper article quoted Poletti as saying that the iMac episode began “a new leg of the journey for us. Apple was given every chance to remedy the problems that we still have to live with. We have ample documentation of this process.” Poletti went on to document the many school systems that are also moving away from Macs and toward PCs.
However, Francis Shepherd, a system engineer with Apple who has worked with the county school system in the past, said he was unaware of some of the problems that Poletti listed. He added that he and other Apple representatives had offered solutions that were never acted upon. What’s more, he told the school board that Apple had been excluded from the bidding process for the last two years, and it was difficult to offer solutions if the lines of communication weren’t open.
However, the situation isn’t looking good for Mac users. The “News-Times” quotes school board member Mike Hodges as saying, “this is the recommendation for this time. We’re not saying that we’re abandoning Apple and won’t use them in the future. But other school systems are moving the same direction. I’m satisfied that for now it’s the right move to make. It’s like going to the doctor. You can get a second and third opinion, but at some point you’ve got to move forward.”
According to a
Jacksonville Daily News
, Hodges said the decision was made last year after a thorough review by school leaders and an appointed committee comprised of persons with computer experience.
The school system made a large investment in technology improvements in 1995 with the passage of a $29 million bond referendum that dedicated $6.25 million for computers and technology, according to the “Daily News.” It was around this time that the school system decided to put Macs in the classrooms.
“After an initial manufacturing problem that required the replacement of the computers soon after installation, the Macs performed well in the classrooms,” reporter Jannette Pippin writes. “But bad timing changed things in 1997 as the school system made upgrades in the operating network to accommodate the large investment in computers, and Apple introduced the iMac,” said Poletti.
Poletti said there are a number of concerns regarding the use of the iMac and how much these issues would add to the cost of continuing with Apple. A primary factor in the decision to transition to PC’s was the finding that Apple servers would have to be installed to support a large Apple inventory, servers that would not be totally compatible with the Novell network operating system that the school system has invested in, Poletti said in the “Daily News” article.
While the existing Macs work well with the network and will continue to be used during their life span, the new Apple computers won’t provide for future needs under the school system’s existing network, he’s quoted as saying.
“There is no problem with the Macs we have. We just can’t move forward with them,” Poletti said.
If there’s a bright side to the matter, it’s that the school system is “keeping the door open for Apple — Compaq, too,” according to Poletti.
“We will continue to support the Macs we have, although we appear to be boxed in and cannot move forward,” he said in the “Daily News” report. “I’m optimistic about Apple’s future and am intrigued by the concept of portable computing, and thus the iBook. But it has to work within the parameters of our infrastructure, and that has to be proven before we dive in.”
The article adds that Shepherd believes there are solutions to the school system’s problems. He has asked that the school system allow Apple to come in and evaluate the existing system to determine if it could make the improvements to meet the school system’s needs at an acceptable cost.
“A concern over the expense that could be associated with a switch to PC’s is part of what prompted a citizens group to begin questioning the school system decision,” Pippin writes in the article. “The group, which includes many Mac users, has researched the topic and
developed a Web site that displays studies
supporting the belief that the Mac is better than PCs in the classroom.”
Poletti also argued that other school systems are making the switch from Macs to PCs. However, Apple is the dominant leader in K-12 education according to a report issued by industry research firm, IDC. IDC’s Report, “Apple, Still at the Head of the Class: Installed PC Market Share in K-12 Education, 2000-2001,” shows Apple is leading the way in both desktops with a 27.7 percent share, and portables with a 34.7 percent share of the education market.
And as MacCentral first reported on July 9,
Apple has regained the top spot in the education market, according to statistics from Quality Education Data (QED) a provider of K-12 and higher education market research. According to QED’s statistics, there are 2,727,018 to 3,236,798 Apple systems installed in U.S. public schools compared to Dell’s 1,240,420 to 1,572,042 range and Compaq’s 738,680 to 997,485. In other words, Apple has over twice as many systems in use.