Can Intel-based Macs really save your university money?

Can Intel-based Macs really save your university money?

Summary: According to Wilkes University, they can -- but I'm not so sure.

TOPICS: Intel, Apple, Hardware

Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA, expects to save $150,000 over the next three years by switching from generic Intel-based PC platforms to the Intel-based Apple Macintosh.  According to eSchool News, Wilkes University is replacing their entire compliment of Intel student workstations with Macintosh computers running Boot Camp (Apples dual-boot technology), Mac OS X, and unspecified "virtualization" software. 

Well all this is fine and dandy but one of their arguments is that the Macintosh is less susceptible virus attack.  Don't they realize that a Macintosh running Windows is no less susceptible to virus attack than any other Intel-based PC running Windows?  (I won't bother to address this reality.  The reasons for this are simple and, in a properly secured environment, it is moot anyway.)

The university acknowledges that more software is available for Windows and points out that this move will allow their users to continue to run all their Windows applications.   In the end, their rationale is that by using all Macintosh hardware, they will need 250 fewer workstations than they would need otherwise. 

If we take the simplest approach then, the $150,000 savings divided by 250 fewer workstations comes to $600 per workstation.  Gee, that just happens to be the retail cost of a Mac mini (sans keyboard, mouse, and monitor).  Add a genuine Apple monitor, keyboard, and mouse to a Mac mini and it is more expensive than a comparably-equipped iMac.  Go figure. 

This $1.4 million project will provide the university with 1450 workstations over three years (certainly a sensible life-cycle), or just over $965 per workstation.  Sounds about right -- assuming that you really need that expensive a machine to meet your typical student's computing needs over a three-year life-cycle. 

I won't quibble with the advantages to students of not having to go to a specific location to use a particular application.  In this respect, being able to boot up the environment that you want in order to run the applications that you want in any student lab on campus is a considerable advantage.

Still I would argue that for under $700 per non-Macintosh workstation, Wilkes University could provide their students with the same functionality on those 1450 workstations and have plenty of money left over for an additional 250 Macintoshes for those that really need them. 

If this simple 'back of the envelope' analysis demonstrates an upfront savings by sticking with Macintosh alternatives (while providing students with more total workstations), it would suggest that while their decision to switch to 100% Macintosh hardware might not be a bad one, it is not a cost-saving one. 

Topics: Intel, Apple, Hardware

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  • yes. Windows license costs add up

    If department X can get by with the Mac and no Windows, they save the cost of Windows licenses.

    The FACT is that OS X wins in the TCO argument. The only ones that say otherwise are MS-funded studies.

    With virtualization, if the Windows install gets corrupt, repair is only a network copy away.

    Yes, this has the potential to save tons of $$$.

    Macs are the superior solution for most companies/schools.
    • Not necessarily ...

      You said ...

      "Macs are the superior solution for most companies/schools."

      ... Considering that the VAST majority of businesses and schools use mostly Windows-based workstations, I would conclude that most would disagree with you.

      Neither the enterprise or the school pays close to retail for Windows licenses so that does not factor into the TCO equation.

      For equivalent hardware with the OS license paid for by the OEM, the cost of the workstation is a wash with regards to TCO. The fact that 90% of users' needs can be met with a $500 PC changes the TCO picture because a $600 Mac Mini still needs a monitor, keyboard, and mouse -- the $499 Dell or Compaq does not.
      M Wagner
    • Oh, Please

      The cost of Windows licenses in the ED world is under $50 a copy, which is less than any OSX price I have ever found.

      Even in a Windows-only environment, repair of corrupt installs is only a network copy away. And that is on a machine that costs less in the beginning, runs more software, allows me to use less expensive parts to repair, IF it ever needs repair, which is not likely on a three year cycle.

      BTW are there ANY non Mac studies that actually show lower TCO for a Mac deployment over the PC in a sub $1000 range? Didn't think so, as there is no Mac deployment in that range, unless you start buying non-Mac stuff to go with a Mini, which has much lower specs than comparably priced PCs.
      • What if your specs are...

        "Must run OS X and XP/Vista." That is, after all, one of the specs right?
        • Only if half your users are Mac users ...

          ... does that argument hold. More likely than not, the percentage of users who NEED (or even just prefer) Macintosh is fewer that 15%. (Ironically 250 workstations, in this setting.)
          M Wagner
        • That's the only way I can see to justify the Mac purchase

          On the other hand, what exactly does the Mac run that a PC won't? Other than the OS, I'm pretty sure there are PC alternatives to every Mac app. We can argue ease of use and cost later, and I'm pretty sure I can find PC apps cheaper, and I have a real issue with the whole "Macs are more intuitive" thing, but I really don't see running OSX as a real spec, unless you are simply trying to force me to buy a Mac, which seems like a stupid reason to spend what is essentially my tax dollars. Well, OK, a lot of our tax dollars...
          • Tax dollars?

            I didn't read anywhere where it's stated that this was public money. I thought this
            university was a private institution. They can "justify" their Mac purchase any way
            they like without having to run it by someone whose name is pronounced (where I
            live, in Mexico) "a-hole".
          • Good point, I agree, but for the sake of argument...

            Lets extend it to public schools. I mean, does a private school, or individual even, really need to justify why they spent money on something they wanted? If it's your own money, why can't people just admit they bought the machine because they like the darn thing, and be done with it? Must we be forced to accept that every purchasing decision fit into some best bang for the buck analysis? Because that is where things get fishy, since your best bang isn't even a fizzle in my analysis, and my favorite pet project is absolute idiocy in yours.

            But if it were tax dollars, and most educational money is, then we need to get a little more picky.

            and wouldn't it be a-holay?
      • Yes, oh please....

        Nice spin in setting up your argument.

        A thread link below and reply to someone else making misinformed claims re Macs vs Windows and TCO studies. He made the baseless charge (Macs more expensive), challenged a response (show me your TCOs and I'll show you mine) then ran away.

        Try to add qualifications all you want but to my knowledge, there have been NO non-MS funded/sponsored (read "independent") TCO/ROI studies favouring Microsoft. At least when asked, no one has been able to produce one.

        Can you?

        Anecdotes, opinion or OS bias/hatred do not count.

        • OK, so I read the crap, and its just that...CRAP!

          The guy with the TCO calculator at

          is paying top retail price for everything, including stuff he doesn't need on the PC, and even doubles up on several items, ie: if you buy Office, you already have an email client, why pay $30 for another one? Especially since he also downloaded Firefox, and could have had Thunderbird for free, as well! 140 dollars for AV, Spyware, Personal firewall, AntiSpam, etc? BS! They are all free, if you spend 30 seconds on a google search, and if you are too anal to trust free stuff, you should shop enough to notice that most products you would pay for include most of those features in one product, for a lot less total cost.

          The fact is, NO ONE in the ED world is paying $300 for Office unless they are incompetent, and if your tech dep't wants to spend another $240 on security for each machine, you need to fire their butts and get some real tech people.

          This is simply another case of a Mac fan trying to rationalize the purchase of a more expensive machine to do the same job as a less expensive machine. Why must the Mac folks keep trying to prove they are smarter than the PC folks? Why can't they just accept the fact that they value the style, design and "Macness" of the Apple product, and are willing to pay more for it? There is nothing wrong with that, after all. That's why I spent $75 for my last case, instead of $20 for the basic beige one. Spending money for style is OK...unless you are spending tax dollars for public education, in which case, you need to find the real TCO, not the "this is what I think, but I really don't know the facts, or how to properly set up a computer to do the job" TCO.
          Again, is there ANY fully Mac solution that can compete in the under $1000 per seat category? NO! Has anyone shown a REAL TCO anlaysis of that? Not to my knowledge. And I'll hazard a guess to say that if you know of any more, they are as full of crap as this one was.
          • Just because you don't like the "facts"

            or they don't mesh with your preconceived bias and opinion, doesn't make them
            any less accurate or wrong.

            TCO studies have continually favoured the Mac no matter how you want to futz
            with the numbers or try to rig the rules to fix the outcome. Live with it.

            Until you can prove other wise (like, provide an independent TCO paper favouring
            Windows), your "facts" and rebuttal are what's "crap".

            I'm not claiming one doesn't exist but as per usual, when asked to present one,
            the reply has been "well, the Mac TCO studies don't count/are worthless/are
            biased/etc" or simply run away... shoot (or ignore) the messenger rather than
            believe the research.

            And Mac users are slammed for living in a reality distortion field...

          • If what you say ...

            ... "TCO studies have continually favoured the Mac no matter how you want to futz with the numbers or try to rig the rules to fix the outcome. Live with it."

            ... were true, the enterprise (read 'big business') woud be moving to Maicntohs in droves. They are not.
            M Wagner
          • Too much MS lock-in

            and money invested (software, hardware, training, IT empires/jobs) for many to make the switch.

            How many have really investigated total costs and instead go with popular myth and opinion that "Mac always cost more" (hardware with little accounting for tech support ie, maintenance/security/productivity/downtime/etc) or "there's no software" or "Macs and Windows don't get along" (ie, can't share files/data), etc. All potential show stoppers before a program is even looked at.

            Per a reason behind the "Mac vs Windows" web site, too many agendas and biases to make an informed decision.

            Plus, as the saying goes... "No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft", though many often should have been :-)

  • This is a school, not a business

    Windows licenses cost schools next to nothing.
    • And might I add...

      ......that the school will be forced to pay a significantly higher price for the copies of Windows it runs with bootcamp, as opposed to the price it would pay for a machine that came with windows preinstalled.
      • Not True

        That is not true, Universities receive a significant reduction in the cost of Microsoft,
        Adobe, and Apple software. Sometimes, the Universities even pass the cost reduction
        on to you, as I only paid $33 dollars for my copy of Office for the Mac, and $49 for
        the Mac OS.
        Thomas Paluchniak
        • Clarification

          Most schools sign on with the "Microsoft Campus agreement".

          Basically, they pay a lump sum every year and for that they get free reign to a host of Microsoft software, including Windows.

          The catch with Windows however is that you have to purchase the PC you are installing it on with a copy (any copy) of Windows. Typically you would buy a PC with the cheapest version of Windows you could get (XP home, or Vista Home Basic), and then slap on which ever version of Windows you want.

          Apple computers are not sold with Windows, so the school would have to buy an OEM copy of Windows for each machine. Of course, the price might be lower due to whatever volume discounts they could get, but it would still be higher than what you pay OEM for.

          Besides Windows, the school might still want access to all of the other software (MS Office for Mac, Visual Studio, etc). The cheapest way to get this software is through one of Microsoft's campus agreements, which invariably include access to Windows.

          I don't know the details of this schools dealing with Microsoft, so it may be that they they *are* saving money, but to make a blanket assumption that they will be saving money on Microsoft software is naive.
        • WRONG ...

          ... read your university license agree carefully. The license you get from Microsofr through your enterprise agreement is only valid as an UPGRADE to a Windows licensed purchase through an OEM, computers which were purchase without an OEM Windows license are not eligible -- makign it illegal to put an enterprise license on a Macintosh unless Apple sold you an OEM Windows license as well.
          M Wagner
  • $150,000 is a conservative figure.

    You must remember that the University already has a
    mixed Mac/PC campus. They already know what each
    component is costing them, so the $150 thousand only
    represents the initial savings. Maintaining a computer
    over a three year period often costs as much as the
    initial outlay. The University will be saving more in Total
    Cost of Ownership since Mac's last longer and are less
    problematic than PC's so they require fewer IT
    personnel. But, it is unlikely that the University will
    expose those costs. Labor-- management relationships
    could be effected; unnecessary personnel could get

    Then there is the point that the Intel Macs allow a
    flexibility that no other system provides. The University
    can use one machine to teach classes in Macintosh,
    Windows and Linux software. Even with the increased
    cost of Windows XP and Vista software added to a cost
    of a Mac, the Mac's cost less for the University to use. In
    using the Mac as their standard, the University no longer
    runs the risks of bottlenecks or problems in equipment
    scheduling. These are no small matter; thus, the teacher
    will be happier.

    Your article offers nothing to the discussion except to
    allow you to vent your prejudices. You have no data to
    back up your bogus opinions and simple back-of-the -
    envelop figures do not tell the whole story.
    • Some good points but ...

      ... I take exception to:

      "Your article offers nothing to the discussion except to
      allow you to vent your prejudices. You have no data to
      back up your bogus opinions and simple back-of-the -
      envelop figures do not tell the whole story."

      No, 'back of the envolope' figures do not tell the whole TCO story but these are not just opinions. Our University has a staff of six people maintaining a Windows build on 3,000 seats and a staff of three people maintaining an OSX build on less than 500 seats. That does not add up to lower personnel costs. Further, those Macintosh seats cost us considerbly more to purchase than the Windows seats.

      Wilkes University has determined that they will save money. Fine. But not everyone will.

      Most will incur the same TCO, no matter what workstations and what OS they pick.
      M Wagner