Why it is a great time for small businesses to consider Macintosh

Why it is a great time for small businesses to consider Macintosh

Summary: The forthcoming Windows 8 operating system release from Microsoft should prompt SMBs to reevaluate OS investments, and reconsider the value of Apple's Macintosh.

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, SMBs

A couple of weeks ago, several of my colleagues debated the advantages and disadvantages of the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system ("Three ugly, middle-aged men argue about Windows 8"). Today, the consumer preview is going live, which will undoubtedly prompt a flurry of prognostications about when, where and why Windows 8 will become the Best. Windows OS. Ever.

I have no specific opinion about Windows, because I haven't been forced to use it for an extended period of time in years (except recently when I was judging some journalism awards). But the Windows 8 release cycle represents a great time for small businesses to think long and hard about whether what has been long considered the defacto or default standard for business computing is really the best technology for running a small business.

I should disclose that I am definitely a Macintosh advocate and have been using some version of the operating system since the pre-Macintosh days (aka, the initial attempt on the now defunct Lisa computer). I am an iPerson, for sure, if there is such a thing. Then again, most people who rave about Windows use that operating system and an ecosystem of related products to run their life, so I don't think that the fact that I use a MacBook Pro myself makes me more or less biased in that regard.

The point of this particular commentary is to suggest that as small-business owners consider Windows 8 -- which has been described by ZDNet commentator Ed Bott as the "most consequential product release in nearly two decade" -- they ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Are there industry-specific applications you need that require Windows? It used to be that certain industries, take real estate as an example, were basically forced to use Windows because some really specialized applications were built for this purpose. There are two reasons why this doesn't matter as much any more. First, you can easily run virtual desktop software on your Macintosh desktop or notebook that can accommodate anything legacy that just isn't supported. Second, many of these applications are moving into the cloud and are being offered as a service, which means that all you need is a supported Web browser.
  2. Which platform do most of your employees use? Training is a big consideration for businesses of every size. If you have a limited budget, you should definitely more closely consider what key employees are using for their personal life. This is especially true when you consider that Windows 8 apparently includes some pretty dramatic interface changes. That, alone, means that there will be a usability learning curve. If many of your employees are already using Macintosh computers at home, it might affect the learning curve for your investment. Heck, even if they aren't using Macintosh, if Windows 8 really represents a major interface change, when not go for it?
  3. Do you have someone to manage configurations and patches? Here's a newsflash. Sometimes Macintosh computers misbehave. They freeze, they get all choked up by certain software (in my case, some security software). The good news is that most of the time it is incredibly easy to get them up and running again. Figuring out how to fix things is pretty intuitive and the Time Machine Backup feature, which does its thing in the background, has been a lifesaver for me on more than one recent occasion. Configuring and setting up Macintosh systems, in my experience, is still way easier than trying to mess with the configurations on a Windows machine. Of course, that can also be dangerous, but you can lock down systems pretty easily so that systems can't be reconfigured. The AppStore upgrade method that is native to Macintosh Lion is also a great way to keep on top of patches and updates that are vital to your most important software.
  4. How mobile is your business? There are three reasons why this matters. In fact, why it matters a great deal. First, is the exquisitely seamless nature with which people can share accounts and information between Macintosh desktops and various mobile devices. Obviously, the most "friendly" ones being part of the iFamily. I know many people have their doubts about iCloud, but the fact is that I don't usually need to think about whether or not I will have access to my entire contact database or email -- regardless of what I've grabbed when I'm running off for a trip. Sure, you can synchronize an iPhone with a Windows computer, but it's like the difference between a sibling and a step sibling. There's an affinity and bond, but do you share the same DNA? The second reason is especially compelling for small businesses that are in the retail industry. The mobile commerce and payment applications that are emerging for the iOS platform are pretty compelling, as I've written in this column several times. Many of them can be integrated right into point of sale systems running on the Macintosh platform. Sure, there are ways that these applications can be integrated into open source or Windows-based backend systems, but things aren't as easy. The third reason you should think mobile? If your company is even remotely interested in an ultrabook, the MacBook Air continues to lead this category with its elegance, weight and simplicity. It will take months for many of the real competitors in the notebook segment to catch up.

It is quite obvious that the world of computing is at an inflection point, and it would be a shame if small businesses limited their available options because of a historical bias against the Macintosh platform in the enterprise world. Even in that space, in fact, the Macintosh is finally getting its due, because of the dramatic acceptance of the iPad. It definitely is time for small businesses to reconsider the OS they embrace when they make their next personal computer purchases.

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Topics: Apple, Hardware, SMBs

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  • I wonder

    How long it will take for this to become an Anti-Apple hate blog? I personally guess within the first 5 comments. Any takers?
    Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Cost is an issue as to why businesses go with Windows

      or even Linux. There is also the consideration that once you are on Apple, you are locked into a single hardware vendor.

      Imagine Apple dropping Servers from their product line.

      Where do you get compatible servers from?
      William Farrel
      • From Microsoft

        Apple clients play nearly as well with Active Directory as Windows clients do.
      • re: cost is an issue.

        Server vendor don't have much to do with end user or client workstations is about protocols that the server support..
        But when windows pcs are almost disposable hardware.. Which is why most companies go with the cheapest machines that will handle the job.. and if it breaks they will probably replace it or have it fix it.. For what some outside repair guys charge in service contracts they can buy 3 -5 new desktops..

        Xserve is unix under the hood like OSX but OSX will still talk to alinux/unix server and part of windows servers.... The only issue is domain or exchange (can't verify this info) but i do know OSX syncs well with google apps..
        Anthony E
      • RE: Apple clients play nearly as well with Active Directory

        The operative word there being nearly... I still find you need 3rd party utilities and a separate server to manage the Mac Clients and get policies close to what Group Policy does with Windows right out of the box.
      • True, they work well with Windows server

        but now you're moving into dual operating systems and hardware.

        We Run Dell on the desktop, and on our servers. Should Dell quit making servers, an HP server will drop in seamlessly as it's running the same srver OS as the Dells are.
        William Farrel
      • The same applies everywhere

        Go to a new vendor and pony up the costs for replacement software to run on the new platform.

        Plus, they see perceived value on the control that some of MS's products provide.
      • Apple makes servers?

        In all of my years of IT, I have never laid eyes on one.
      • Support is a cost, isn't it?

        This argument doesn't really work for me, because I think it overlooks the support that is needed far more often in the windows world. I will also point out that many, many companies have Macintosh clients on their networks, and they do play well.
        Heather Clancy
      • Yes, support is a cost - but it is also a red herring.

        @Heather Clancy

        "This argument doesn't really work for me, because I think it overlooks the support that is needed far more often in the windows world. I will also point out that many, many companies have Macintosh clients on their networks, and they do play well. "

        Welcome back to the conversation.

        With all due respect - I think we've covered this - alongside the whole "Mac TCO is lower than PC TCO" myth. When used for similar types of work, there is really no difference in the amount of support required for either platform. When support *IS* required, Apple often falls short compared to other manufacturers, both in the level of support available, and the cost of getting support (for example, replacement parts, should something break).
      • Support that is needed far more often in the windows world?

        I would disagree, Heather Clancy

        I have seen that not to be the case. Support costs for all computers and networks are relativelly equal, as the hardware fails at the same rate.

        A corretly administered Windows network is no more vulnerable to issues then a well managed Apple network.

        The primary difference is that Windows clients are easierto manage centrally then an Apple client, hence less in administrative costs.
        Tim Cook
      • Lock in

        Would you rather be locked into a software vendor (Microsoft: OS, Apps, and server) which is the highest cost item in your IT Budget?

        Or be locked into a hardware vendor?

        Really, once you get into Microsoft it's very very hard to get out.
      • Lock-in?


        "Would you rather be locked into a software vendor (Microsoft: OS, Apps, and server) which is the highest cost item in your IT Budget?
        Or be locked into a hardware vendor?"

        How would you not be locked in to Apple in the same scenario? Either your hardware/OS vendor is the same as the business application vendor you choose, or it is not.

        Either way, you're making a decision on who will provide the OS and the business system. If the OS you choose is Mac OS X, then you are also choosing who is going to provide the hardware (and the hardware support) for your business in the long run.

        "Really, once you get into Microsoft it's very very hard to get out."

        Really, once you get into any major business system it's very very hard to get out. Microsoft or otherwise. Being an "itguy", you'd think you'd know this by now. I guess you just forgot to add the word "armchair" to the front of your name.
    • Well so far..

      ..it seems the Apple "haters" are all giving some pretty good, informed reasons why Heather's points for moving your small business to the Mac aren't really that well thought out from a business or IT perspective.

      Then you got the likes of good ol' Quinny posting a pretty thinly-veiled bit of sarcasm aimed at an argument that is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.. Yep, sounds like the Apple Haterz are in full swing here.. (eyeroll)
      • It's our fault, not hers, you know

        A bunch of geeks arguing IT technology with a B.A. in English literature from Canada...
      • windows hater you mean.

        it seems the windows hater started the whole topic. "I haven???t been forced to use it for an extended period of time" sounds like a bias article. so everyone should dump the bias and look at Heather Clancy's article for what it is. why small business's should dump pc's for mac's? now some one bring in the real pro's and con's?
  • Apple is EVIL don't you know!?!

    It hires Chinese workers who make above average wages! At least for China:). Apple makes lots of money and has lots of money so that alone makes the company evil! They sue others! I think they invented it and in its long history no one not once had sued Apple! How evil it that!?! They are closed not open! They keep secrets we all know only the guilty and or evil keep secrets! Oh and some people actually like their products and find them usefull... That is the most evil and vile thing yet!!!! Arrrrrgggghhhhh! Whew I feel better now:)

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • Did you shout that while flailing your hands about

      and dancing a jig, in an attempt to distract readers from the logical and practical reasons as to why switching to Macs in an IT environment may not be in their best interest?

      Fascinating. :|
      Tim Cook
  • Why?

    Now is probably the worst time to switch to the Mac. Apple will go through a large-scale OS rework within the next five years and I suspect it will be more dramatic then what Microsoft has done with Windows 8. For business (and now consumer) editions of Windows Microsoft promises 10 years of support. Apple doesn't clearly state how long you can expect support of a given version of their OS, well-run businesses will want clear life-cycle details when making investments into technology.

    Apple is a great consumer company, but have never really "got" the enterprise customer. But the real question is do they need to? Their focus on consumer products seems to be working for them!
    • Apple support

      Apple support is typically 3 years. After that your base install of OSX is worthless and unlikely to have particularly good App support. Believe me, I've seen it happen several times to friends and family who are mac users.