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Macs and iPhones: impolitic Apple hardware can be hard to hide

Like the Japanese car in the Dearborn auto plant parking lot, Macs and iPhones must create problems for switchers working at Apple competitors as well as companies with a PC-or-die IT policy.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

Like the Japanese car in the Dearborn auto plant parking lot, Macs and iPhones must create problems for switchers working at Apple competitors as well as companies with a PC-or-die IT policy.

The other day, I heard a tale from a longtime Mac user who has worked for very-antiMac companies in the computer industry. He said he recently took a meeting deep in the corporate headquarters of an Apple competitor and got a call on his cellphone. Of course, it was an iPhone.

He said he had to cover the iPhone up and turn around to answer the call, shielding the iPhone from view, so that the business partners wouldn't be offended by the technology. His yoga lessons came in handy.

It's tough for switchers in the enterprise, sometimes having to go head-to-head with IT management dead set against the Mac or iPhones. Last year before the release of the iPhone, I wrote about the IT culture clash over technology introductions.

Take the poll below: Do you have to hide your Mac or iPhone at work?

Another worry of enterprise IT managers may be that the iPhone will expand on the iPod's "halo effect" for the Macintosh. Paul Camillos, partner at consultancy Ephemeral Technologies in Sydney, Australia, said some of his clients have already warned of increased Mac interest from the iPhone hype.

"One IT manager I know said that there was no way that he would allow a Mac into his environment," he said. "He'd rather quit and said he would lobby strongly to all management against the introduction of the iPhone in case it acted as a precursor to management wanting Macs."

No Macs or else! But if it's tough for ordinary switchers in the enterprise, it must be more difficult for folks working at Apple's competition, or at companies that produce technology used in the competition.

Car makers ban the competition from the employee parking and tech companies do the same for the competition. I found an amusing 2006 comment by Mark Graban about the computers used by Dell consultants on a similar subject. It was in response to a Toyota blog post about how the management of a Ford automotive plant wouldn't allow non-Ford cars and trucks in the company parking lot.

When I worked at Dell, there was an unofficial "Dell only" policy for consultants with laptops. We joked that the Number 2 brand of computer was "Yellow Post-It Note" laptops, as consultants would have what were obviously compaq or IBM laptops with the logo covered with a post-it note. Didn't really fool anyone.

Now, it would take more than a Post-It to hide a MacBook Pro. And especially, the new MacBook Air.

Of course, Sergey Brin, Google co-president, doesn't hide his iPhone use, even though the company is developing a competing smartphone OS. And why should he when Google integration is all over the iPhone and creating what the company calls "ad monetization?" However, Microsoft appears to be okay with at least one of its employees running Vista on a MacBook in the office. Blogger Chris Pirillo pointed to Brandon Paddock, a self-described geek who works on search technology at Microsoft (but not in the Microsoft Mac Business Unit, where it's okay to show up with Mac hardware and software, or at least it is at the "SVC," the Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View, Calif.).

From his blog, Paddock balances his Apple and PC purchases. His desktop machine is an over-clocked PC with a Themaltake “Big Typhoon” CPU cooler.

My main concern is a faint buzzing sound under CPU load, which only seems to happen when overclocking past a certain point. My understanding is that it’s likely some sort of CPU voltage coil which is vibrating at a frequency which is inversely harmonic to that of the polarized deflector dish. As with all things, the remedy apparently involves hot glue.

Read this related story: Will Microsoft support Windows on Macs?

Now, I never hid my Mac even when working at PC-only companies. I hauled two computers to work and put the PC notebook in the middle of the desk and my personal PowerBook over to the side. The Mac saved my productivity and deadlines many times, such as when some Windows service would break and network printing would stop, or when a malware attack would bring e-mail to a halt.

But I didn't carry it into meetings with the bosses. So what do you do?

[poll id=94]

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