Macs in the Enterprise

I noticed that the Cult of Mac converted another member this weekend. Floyd bought an iMac. He’d been pondering the jump for a while, and now, his love for Mac has leeched over into his work.

Full disclosure here, I’m a convert too. So is Dan. So are Paul, Rich and I assume Anthony, too. He has an MBP, but doesn’t tend to gush about how awesome it is.

I think we all use our Macs to do work stuff, too. The knock on Macs for serious work has always been lack of software, but not anymore. For example, I have not one, not two, but three productivity suites on my Macbook: OpenOffice 3, Microsoft Office 2004 and iWork 2008. They all do a good job overall, with slight differences here and there.

Back when I started getting the itch to switch, around 2002-2003, the software argument on the PowerPC architecture was a non-starter, and so was the cost. However, in 2006, the move to Intel-based architecture opened the software floodgates and lowered the cost all at once, possibly the best move Apple has made this millennium, maybe ever?

And how about irony too? Looking back, Microsoft’s use of Intel’s x86 chipset created the Wintel behemoth, and the switch in architecture helped turn the tide for Apple. Not that Windows is dead, but Macs continue to take market share.

Today, Digg floated me this article on Macs in the enterprise. The main point is solid, i.e. Macs will push into the enterprise as college kids graduate, complete with brand new degrees and a fully-formed cocoon of love and hugs for Apple. After all, iPod, iPhones and Macbooks got them through the tough times in college.

This sounds familiar. I had the same experience coming out of college, back in the mid-90s. We only used Macs, and boy howdy was it a shock to use Windows 3.11. The big difference now is that Macs can do serious grown up work, and back then, they really couldn’t.

In the past three years or so, I’ve noticed a shift internally toward Macs for work. I know a lot of people who use their personal Macbooks for work; people in IT have even moved to Macs, but I’ve yet to see MBP on the official replacement laptop list. I keep hoping, as my Dell creeps toward replacement oblivion.

Incidentally, where do laptops go when they’re fully amortized?

Anyway, the question is why? What is it about Macs that make you want to use them for everything you do on a computer, even when you have a perfectly good PC provided by your employer?

If you read Floyd and Dan’s switching stories, the key seems to be that Macs “just work”, making them more reliable. I also agree with Floyd that the design and function of OS X is appealing over Windows. UI matters. I also agree with Dan that having a bash shell, even if OS X hides stuff from me by default, is very helpful.

If you’ve switched, how did that go? Did you convert to Mac for good or go back to Windows?

Personally, I like choice, which is why I have three productivity suites, and I don’t plan to convert fully to OS X anytime soon. Having hardware beefy enough to run virtual machines is a huge plus for me, so I can dabble with Linux and Windows as I wish.

Choice will drive Microsoft too. Windows isn’t going away anytime soon, and I expect future releases of Windows, maybe not 7, to put more emphasis on UI and design. The big question is how this affects software built for Windows. Will it need to conform to better UI standards (like software for Mac does), or will it continue to be a hodge-podge?

So, do you use a Mac? For home and/or work? Do you wish your company would give you a Mac? Find the comments and share your O/S thoughts.




  1. When I showed up at my office with my new Mac a few months back, I got “the look”. At first, my bosses complained that I'm bucking “corporate standards”. I said it wouldn't matter since I don't rely on our IT staff for support anyway. Now they're talking about switching their own computers to Mac. 🙂

    As you mentioned, the availability of software is no longer a factor in the platform choice for most, or at least it doesn't need to be. Mac hardware is still quite expensive compared to comparable specs for similar Dell or other hardware (at least for laptops). So, it boils down to OS being the main factor. At least that's how I see it and I have yet to experience the same BSOD or brown-outs that I got at least once a week on my Windows laptop back in the day.

    I'm never going back.

  2. VMs cover any software issues, e.g. Web Conference only runs on IE, but I handle that with an XP VM.

    I did see a few Macbooks at OOW this year, maybe 1 in every 20 or so, prolly higher concentration in the OTN lounge. My guess is that will be closer to 1 in 10 by next year.

    I'm sticking to OS X and some flavor of Linux too.

  3. Ha,

    I was toting my MacBook Pro at OOW.

    By the way the Mac Pro is quite competively priced when we were speccing up an equivalent rig.

    I guess this is one in the eye for the big corporation, here at nominet the tech department has had Macs on the “authorised list” for quite a few years, I've a Mac Pro under my desk and the MacBook Pro for when I'm on the road.

    I too could not go back to running anything else, If I ever joined another company the lack of being able to run on a mac would be a deal breaker!

  4. We've debated the cost of Mac vs. PC in the past here, and you're right, price is getting close, while Macs continue to be better than Windows PCs. Everybody wins.

    I think cost (monetary and support) drives bigger companies away from Mac, and obvious the amortization of assets in service is part of the discussion too. This is changing though from what I hear. I expect to see MBP on the official list for us soon, which will be nice.

  5. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that about half my company has gone Mac – and Macs are in our corporate replacement catalog. I'll be wrangling my way into a Mac at work very soon.

    On a somewhat related point, I'm also finding that my iPhone, iMac, and make a very powerful combo.

  6. Nice, I'm a bit surprised that Macs are in your catalog, but this is good news. We're eagerly awaiting that day over here. When it comes, there will be a huge demand.

    One thing that bugs me is Office on the Mac; it's very disjointed, not nearly the same experience as on Windows. That's why I've got two other options. This may be different in the more recent versions, but I'm guessing if we go Mac, we'll go OpenOffice too. 3 is nice.

  7. I've got a bunch if Macs, including a much maligned cube which is now becoming a collector's item.

    I agree about MS office on Mac, I gave up on it too.

    On price, my experience of Dell versus Mac is you need 4 replacement hard disks in a Dell fir every one on a Mac. So mac has to be cheaper?

  8. Don't really care of Office 2008 on the Mac myself. Checking out OpenOffice 3 and NeoOffice 2.5. Even with all that, I'm still setting up Visio on a VM this weekend…no good alternatives when somebody sends me a Visio file.

  9. Let me know what you think of NeoOffice, heard it was good, but that was pre-OO 3.

    The lack of a Visio clone is a bummer, but as you say, VM is the way to go. I love that my MB is beefy enough to run XP virtually without breaking a sweat.

  10. I had that experience at WhereCamp last weekend, but luckily there were lots of Macs around so I could charge.

    What DB do they run on OS X? Or do they run virtually?

  11. I think that Corporate IT will have a few questions to ask before it puts Macs as standard equipment on the desks of a large proportion of the desks.
    Firstly, you don't replace all the PCs in an organisation at once, so it will be introduced over several years. So you are looking into compatibility issues. One solution would be to be buying Mac hardware but running (mostly/solely ?) Windows on them for a couple of years. Especially if you've already got Windows licenses. The question is will Apple sell the hardware at a suitably competitive rate (or let its hardware manufacturers sell the same box without the Apple logo/OSX).
    Secondly, if you do go for OSX, which OSX ? Businesses are reluctant to upgrade OS at MS pace, let alone Apple's (or even worse, Ubuntu's). They'll want an OSX version that will still be up to date in five years time.

  12. Yeah, mass replacement isn't realistic, but I do expect that new hardware will offer the choice of OS X.

    10.5 Leopard has been out for a while and is stable, and you can't really choose what version to put on a new Mac, which is the same model as Windows, until recently when Vista did a faceplant.

    Compatibility issues are not really a problem anymore, with a few exceptions that can be addressed case-by-case with Windows VMs. I doubt Apple will ever sell its hardware standalone without OS X. They tried that back in the late 90s on the Motorola chipset and failed. Recently, they went after some clone manufacturer too. Not happening.

  13. “I do expect that new hardware will offer the choice of OS X. “
    In small groups maybe. I don't see a big bank or government department setting half its accounting department up with OSX while the other half have Windows.
    “Compatibility issues are not really a problem anymore”
    Mileage may vary. I have problems with Outlook Web Access in Linux or Windows Firefox (or at least limitations), though I don't know if Safari is better. Depends how tied up your firm is with the MS Stack or legacy apps. And if your Accounts app does work exactly the same on Windows and OSX, then how much is the Apple experience worth.

    I can see Apple in niches and upper echelons, and in customer facing places for a business that wants a 'look', but I won't hold my breath for mass adoption

  14. I don't think many of them run DBs on their laptops at all, but if they do, they obviously would use Oracle and run virtually. Good question, though–I'll ask around now that you've raised my curiosity.

  15. “. . . Setting half its accounting department up with OSX while the other half have Windows”
    That's a funny example. Sales switching to OS X while accounting stays on Windows sounds more realistic.

    Browser compatibility issues are OS independent. Besides, are you really surprised that Outlook web anything isn't that great in a non-Windows OS? Compatibility isn't solved, but it's not the non-starter it once was. VMs are a huge help.

    Here's what I'm not suggesting (and didn't say): every IT department will switch wholesale to Mac and hug its users.

    What I am saying is that Macs are making a dent in the enterprise, partially through IT and partially through user preference. You can bet Apple has a plan to push into the enterprise too, witness the iPhone's 180 into a phone for business between the 1st and 2nd generation.

    And Macs are pushing better (and more stable) software into Linux and Windows, which is a good thing for everyone.

  16. It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, since we've previously talked about the Mac options for DB. I am curious to know if you can get a sample.

  17. I'm a bit more skeptical on this… at least here at ORCL. I don't think we'll see Macs in the iProcurement catalog anytime soon. Think about it. If we can't eliminate Internet Explorer 6, how can GIT formally support Macs. VMware images of XP aren't gonna cut it… too much expense (XP license and VMware license — we don't even have a VMware site license) added to the Mac hardware cost.

    Anyway, I hope you're right and I'm wrong.

  18. I, for one, welcome our new AAPL overlords.

    Seriously, if MBP's end up on iProcurement you can bet I will be living in my mngt's office bugging them for a laptop refresh. And I'll have to stand in line.

    This a gut-feel, Jake, or have you heard a rumble?

  19. Yeah, I think it's good news overall, e.g. did you see Windows 7 sneak peeks at PDC? Not too shabby and focused on UI, winna-winna-chicken-dinna.

    It's a hunch. I have no credible information, but that's usually enough in cop shows on TV so I figured go with it.

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