John Droz, Jr. is tired of seeing schools phase out Macs — and he’s developed a strategy he hopes Apple will implement to stop such “backward migrations.”
Droz is a physicist and a Mac consultant who has been involved with computers for over 30 years. He has several hundred Mac clients in the business and education markets. But when a local school system in North Carolina, which had gone all-Mac in 1996, recently announced plans to phase out Macs in favor of Dells, he’d had enough.
“I have spent a considerable amount of time in talking to teachers, administrators, MIS persons, Apple education reps, etc. in an attempt to get an accurate idea of just how this faux pax came about,” Droz told MacCentral. “As part of this effort I have written about a dozen handouts for our school board and other interested parties to digest — for example, a summary of how to keep Macs up and running simply and inexpensively. My conclusion, at this point, is that the main culprits here are our MIS persons. During this investigation, though, it also become apparent to me that part of the problem is with Apple.”
In the case of the local school system, the “backward migration” situation should never have advanced to the point it has, he added. To stop such an occurrence from happening to other school districts in the future, Droz said Apple needs to remember that preventing a problem in the first place requires much less effort (and is much less costly) than having to solve the same problem afterwards. And he added that in the special case of the education channel, giving up its normal retail profit margins “is a wise economic decision as it reaps financial benefits in several other ways (such as through students’ parents using Macs at school and buying a Mac for home use).”
With this in mind, he composed the following list of “What Apple Should Be Doing: Some Ideas on how to Prevent Schools Going to Dell” (or, we presume Gateway, Compaq, IBM, etc.):
Assume that the school district’s head MIS person is Windows oriented, and not experienced with, or too interested in, Macs.
Assume that this head MIS person won’t be asking for much feedback from teachers and students, so decisions he makes will be in his own interests.
Assume that this head MIS person won’t be requesting much help from Apple, even though he needs it. Most likely, if left on his own, he will go his own way: Windows.
Maintain very close and frequent contacts with MIS people to lessen the likelihood of their going astray, and to better ascertain the pulse of the situation.
Give MIS people a list of Web sites that are beneficial for their situation. Also, consider a monthly newsletter.
Sign up MIS people for the very worthwhile, and free, Mac Managers e-mail list.
Make a BIG effort to assure that Macs can be justified as having lower maintenance costs. (For example, hand the MIS people multiple copies of a free CD that includes all beneficial updates over and above a standard install for the four most common, good system versions: 7.1 Update 3, 7.6.1, 8.6, and 9.0.4. And have a Web site with all this info.)
Make a SIGNIFICANT effort to ensure that school districts use Apple servers (such as giving servers away for free, if need be.)
Make upgrading to 9.0.4 essentially free for education sites (which would allow automatic software updates, NetBoot, etc.).
Arrange for free onsite demos of Apple developments that might be worthwhile (iMovie, iTunes, etc.).
Include HyperCard 2.4.1 with all education Macs. Furthermore, update HyperCard so that it is OS 9 and OS X compatible.
Make a deal with Connectix to allow education sites to buy Virtual PC 4 at US$50 or less.
Make a deal with a quality RAM supplier to allow education sites to buy additional RAM at a substantial discount.
Make a deal with a third party floppy drive manufacturer to allow education sites to buy USB floppy drives for iMacs at $50 or less.
Offer a better education channel warranty — more than one year. (Dell’s is three years.)
Droz said he is considering turning this list into a petition for submission to Apple. He’d like input and feedback from educators and consultants. If you’re interested,
drop him an e-mail.