This is an opinion piece written by Michael Gartenberg. Michael is research director for the Client Access and Technologies group at Jupiter Research in New York.
If yours is like most IT departments, you probably aren’t deploying Macintosh systems in large numbers. And if you’re deploying them at all, you’re doing so in niche spaces such as graphic arts, multimedia and publishing.
But the truth is the Mac OS has changed quite a bit in the past few years and today’s Apple systems offer a reasonable alternative to Wintel systems for many mainstream uses and are often best-of-breed tools for tasks such as desktop publishing, multimedia and other content creation. OS X, code-named Jaguar, and the recently announced successor called Panther are rock-solid Unix at the core, with Apple’s elegant user interface on top. But if you plan on deploying them, you’ll need to overcome your preconceptions regarding three myths about the Mac that still linger.
The first myth is that Apple computers are expensive relative to their PC cousins. Though Apple is certainly not a discount brand and will almost never offer the cheapest computers available, Macs are certainly price-competitive with PCs. Users do pay some premium for both the Apple brand and the innovation that goes into the company’s often brilliant hardware design, but the premium isn’t out of line with what users already pay for name-brand systems from vendors such as Sony, Hewlett-Packard or IBM. In many cases, comparable Apple systems are priced similarly and in some cases they’re even cheaper than the competition.
The second myth is that there’s a lack of software available. Although OS X doesn’t offer the sheer number of titles that Windows offers, there’s an abundance of business software for the Macintosh. In some markets, such as content creation, there’s actually more software available for the Mac. In addition, Microsoft offers a complete and compatible version of Office for the Macintosh, so knowledge workers can easily share documents and communicate with colleagues across operating systems. Apple’s support of Web-based Internet standards means most Internet-based applications will simply run without modification. The occasional lack of a specific application might hold back some deployments, but most organizations will never hit that wall.
The third myth is that Apple architectures are based on proprietary protocols. Though that was certainly true in the past, it isn’t an accurate portrayal of Apple today. Now, the Mac OS is one of the most standards-driven operating systems you can purchase. From MPEG 4 support in QuickTime to full TCP/IP support for networking and Wi-Fi protocols for wireless access, Macs are a seamless fit for most organizations’ infrastructure. (Apple was actually the first operating system vendor to bundle TCP/IP support into a commercial operating system.)
Does this mean Mac OS is right for your organization? Not necessarily. But it does mean your organization has more viable choices for desktop systems than you might have thought. Certainly, deploying Mac OS in areas that depend heavily on content creation makes good sense, but there are probably other places that could benefit as well. Most IT departments lament the lack of choice among desktop operating systems. The truth is that there are choices out there, and viable ones at that. IT departments that can overcome their traditional prejudices against Apple may well discover that there’s a new PowerBook or G5 in their future, and once they do, they may never go back to Windows.
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