Switching from Windows to Mac: The ROI case

Switching from Windows to Mac: The ROI case

Summary: Auto Warehousing Co. CIO Dale Frantz says his decision to go from a Windows shop to one powered by Apple is based on time and labor spent maintaining Windows.

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TOPICS: Windows, Apple, Hardware
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Auto Warehousing Co. CIO Dale Frantz says his decision to go from a Windows shop to one powered by Apple is based on time and labor spent maintaining Windows.

A week ago, I noted that Auto Warehousing Co. was switching to the Mac platform. The move, first chronicled by Computerworld, left a few loose ends on Frantz's business case. The biggest loose end: I looked like Frantz was adding costs with an unclear return.

I emailed Frantz to get some more color on his decision. Without offering specific return targets he did tie up a the loose ends. Instead of interpreting his remarks and paraphrasing I thought it was best to let him tell it. Here's his reply to my question about his business case for switching to the Mac on the front end of his infrastructure.

Our proprietary application (written and maintained in-house) is not Vista compatible. That was our first and foremost problem that we needed to solve. We have a client/server solution, with the client written in PowerBuilder, and Microsoft SQL Server on the back-end. There are no plans to move away from Microsoft SQL Server, only to rewrite the client app in Java.

That having been said, Vista is coming, and it is unclear how long we will be able to delay its introduction into our facilities. Our company is growing, and Microsoft says they will stop selling XP in any flavor no later than Jan 31, 2008. In any event, at some point in the next 6-12 months we will be unable to buy Windows XP pre-installed on a box anymore. This meant that we needed to develop a migration strategy for our application (which we have decided to recode in Java, which we anticipate taking 18-24 months).

All of our revenue-generating operations occur in an automobile shop environment, and the computers that run our application in the shop do not require any additional software (no Office, etc.). At this point it is only those PC's (several hundred in the US/Canada) that we are looking at replacing with 17" iMacs. There is no plan today to migrate our offices (HR, Finance, etc.) to Mac's.

We did a study to analyze the actual cost of "Windows" maintenance and support. In part, we did this by asking our I/S Operations group to have their technicians log all support calls that were specifically "windows" related - windows crashed, locked up, driver errors, DLL failures, whatever. We also logged any additional time spent on any Windows maintenance. In other words, we tried to identify as best we could how many man-hours we were investing in simply the "care and feeding" of Windows to keep it up and running. When the analysis was complete, the results were unbelievable - simply unbelievable how much time, effort and money we were investing into the care and feeding of Windows on a PC. When you add that internal support cost into the ROI calculation for Macs the results were undeniable. There are those who would say that the Mac hardware is more expensive than a PC, especially when you add Parallels and a Windows XP OEM license, and if you stop there, that is true (but not a huge difference). However, when you throw the Windows support cost in to the matrix, the results fall drastically towards the Mac, based upon our estimates. Our proof of concept testing found that Windows running on a Mac in the Parallels virtual environment did not require the same degree of support as full-blown Windows PC's - much less, in fact.

As part of my due diligence I have visited 2 companies that have between 10,000 - 20,000 Macs on their network. In both cases the companies have blended networks, supporting both Mac's and Windows PC's. In both cases Mac XServes were the controlling architecture. The network management tools and support software that Apple provides allows each of these companies to have fewer than five I/S support personnel. I have more than 5 just to support our fleet of Windows PC's and related devices.

So, in summary, we found the true cost to support a single PC in the shop environment to greatly outweigh the minimal difference in hardware/software cost between a Mac and PC with Vista. It is our belief that we will achieve a significant savings with this move to Macs on the shop floor, as well as increase system reliability and user satisfaction.

Frantz added that his due diligence was the result of asking colleagues about their infrastructure. Few are actively documenting the results of a switch from Windows to the Mac so "industry networking is invaluable," says Frantz.

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344 comments
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  • So Microsoft's Total Cost of Ownership, aka "Get the Farce"...

    ... does not reflect the true costs involved. Hardly surprising.
    BanjoPaterson
    • Yes, you can have purpose built machine.

      And that is what he needed instead of a general computing platform. In this specific case it makes sense to switch, but a thin client would have been a much better choice.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • Yes and No . . .

        Yes, thin clients (e.g. browser-based clients) may be better in this case, but ...

        No, MACs are not "purpose built machines". They are every bit as flexible as Windows machines.

        However; the most astonishing number is the 2000 to 4000 servers/FTE ratio. That far and away surpasses any initial added hardware expense.

        .
        Basic Logic
    • CIO living in Dream World

      That CIO is going to learn a hard lesson. I've seen that running Macs is little different than PCs. They crash on a regular basis and need the same "care and feeding" because the problem isn't with the hardware or software, it's with the users, and if you introduce the same stupid users into the equation, it doesn't matter if you run Windows or Mac. Overall, MS is more cost effective because *you* own the hardware, unlike with Mac.
      tshinder9
      • So are you

        [b]Overall, MS is more cost effective because *you* own the hardware, unlike with Mac.[/b]

        Huh? I OWN my Macs and have for years. I can and do run tons of programs on them.

        And it's proven by every independent TCO study that Macs are lower TCO than Windows.
        ITGuy04
        • Macs own you!

          ...:-)
          sackbut
          • Don't be ridiculous

            Macs don't own you any more than Windows-powered PCs.

            And the article fairly plainly states that the use the computers is being put to is a networked, special-purpose, inventory & production control environment without the need for office productivity software.

            Microsoft clearly lost them as a customer due to their changing something in VISTA from the way it works in XP.
            Dr_Zinj
          • He is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous

            Mac is an OS and owns nothing but it's own non human rights and property. How ridiculous can one actually get by posting such silly tripe ? I'd be ashamed to make such a post in light of others reading it would know the person making such a ridiculous accusation has a very limited mental capacity or has altered it by some kind of drug inducement. My advice, post something constructive, negative criticism can be constructive if given with supported facts but this kind of nonsense is what it is, useless, nonsense.
            intrepi
          • They sure do. Try ordering a tower and building a Mac. Not an option.

            I'm sure many here have built their own computer. That's all I do now. Think you can order up the pieces of a killer Apple from tigerdirect.com and customize it all for under $600. And that's one of the great joys of computing.

            Mac is a gadget company who has some computers and fierce, albeit devoted little user group. I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole.
            SpaceCowboyNJ
          • Try ordering a tower...

            and building a Dell. Not an option. Large companies don't build their own systems. Nice try though.
            jasonp9
          • Plugging parts does not equal Building

            You can buy a VERY FINE tower Mac, if you can afford it. I'm guessing you can't.
            comp_indiana
          • I used to. My time is too valuable

            to waste chasing bad parts, incomaptibilities, etc.

            And the last time I priced it out, the differences were negligible when comparing like for like.
            ITGuy04
      • Do you mean to tell me...

        ...that I have been RENTING my hardware for the past 20 years?! wow... am I ever late on payments.
        Stuka
      • I assure you Macs don't crash "on a regular basis"

        I look after all our Macs (and I'm self-taught at it) yet none of our friends can do the
        same for their PCs. They have to go running to their dealers for techie support. And
        it's not as though I'm super-intelligent. Many of our friends are far more intelligent
        than I am. You'd have to be real dumb not to be able to look after a Mac (and even
        dumber not to be able to learn to use one properly). And I certainly own my Mac
        hardware, thank you very much. The only way I wouldn't own it is if I leased it.
        labarker
        • I think you said it best!

          Macs are for dumb people.
          xuniL_z
          • You know I can live with that.......

            I mean if it's smart to have to work to make your computer work and keep it working
            then I'll be dumb and lazy any day of the week and twice on Sunday cause I'd rather
            do a little as possible to get paid than to do as much as I have to just to get the
            chance to work....

            Pagan jim
            Laff
          • I know you can.....

            But there are other people out there that want to make their computer work for them. It's these people that may work harder, but leave a larger mark on the world and provide much better for themselves and their families.<br>
            You see the idea of computing isn't to have the computer dictate what you can do, and operate only in those boundries, but to make the computer work for you and at the end of the day provide the best ROI and value for your personal use or company's bottom line. <br>
            Obviously you alwasy exaggerate a Windows experience into an all day adventure just to boot it up, like everyone here is a moron. But in reality, I've never had a day my PC didn't boot up XP, very quickly I might add, and provide me with a great interface to do my work. And the ability to do many more various tasks than OS X so that I have the choice to either just get my work done with least effort, like you (do you use Microsoft Office as well to make your life easier on that Mac?) or I can choose to be more enterprising and develop power shell scripts to automate network tasks, or build prototypes of a messenging queue that handles client and server sides requests on/off line and stuff like that. The possibilities are endless, beyond what you can do and only left to the imagination.
            xuniL_z
          • Funny.......

            No don't use MS Office. Now what exactly did you mention that I can't do on OSX?

            Personally I'm in the support/repair end of the buisness so no I'm not all that
            interested in a lot of what you listed out but I can't see where if I choose to do said I
            could not? OSX is Unix based after all.....

            Pagan jim
            Laff
          • So you are the computer equivelent of the

            Maytag repairman then? Must be a long lonely day with those Macs that never give a bit of trouble. <br>
            I don't know, you tell me what you can do with OS X. What development environment do you have loaded on yours? Can you control your Macs with a few clicks and take users from full access to extremely limited access on your Apple network? What is the Mac server equivelent of active directory? Does you Mac support group policy? <br>
            You don't like Office? Ever take a look at Office 2007? What is Apple's answer for Flash or silverlight? Can you even run Office 2007 w/o booting up into Windows? Ever hear of MOSS? What's Apple got going in that regard? What database server do you run on your Mac? Does OS X come with an Apple built webserver as part of the OS? <br>
            I know you can run these things but do you have to load them? Are they integrated with the Mac OS? <br>
            Why does Apple charge so much for OS X when they didn't have to put any resources into building the Unix OS? At least Microsoft has a reason to charge for XP or vista etc. What's Apple's reasoning? Why do service packs cost you 130 bucks? Why do you say OS X is cheaper? I've run XP for 6 years now. I bought this Toshiba with XP professional installed. It was around 130. bucks...something like that. Since then I've had 2 service packs, one of them a completely new OS for the most part and have never paid a dime for those or any of the literally thousands of free tools and apps for XP. In 6 years time, how much as the average Mac owner spent on their OS? Huh, huh? Be honest now. You know you buy the updates. So after 6 years your OS has cost you in the neighborhood of 850.00 bucks. Wow!!! vista is less than half the cost of OS X at FULL RETAIL!! when you compute your ROI over time. And Macs are famous for lasting, so your OS might end up costing you in the thousands by the time you are done. I could buy 6 brand new Vista machines and still not pay as much for the OSes as ONE Mac over the next several years. And I can load my copy of Vista on any machine I want w/o buying yet another license.
            xuniL_z
          • A couple points here...

            I'm not a developer or a network administrator I've dabbled slightly in both but
            hardly even close to an expert so hoestly I don't know...

            As for Office ever since it came out I've never found it to be all that in fact I'd say
            it's too much. Way to much stuff that I don't need nor do I want to pay for.
            Generally here at work we use MS Office 2004 and for now that's fine. I myself
            don't need it or use it....again too much stuff that I simply have no use for.

            As for FLash and what is that again Silverline? What do they do? If I know that
            much I might be able to answer you.

            Pagan jim
            Laff