OK, I actually leased it, but still, this is me we're talking about. I like Macs, but I've never been particularly bullish on their value. And who likes Steve Jobs and Apple's Draconian control over everything, anyway? Give me open source or give me death, right?!?!
As I discussed earlier this month, Macs seem to be everywhere, especially on college campuses. Not only did I actually need to buy one of these for my son for his own college program, but as I configured a system for him I started wondering if Apple equipment just might not satisfy my own needs for my fledgling consulting business. They offered business discounts, for example, that were greater than the academic discounts my son would receive at his school, they were quick to approve me for great lease rates (despite being a new business with minimal credit history), and I was able to include both software and hardware in the lease costs. Fortunately, my son will also be my videographer, podcast producer, and general AV guy for my business, having several times my creativity, making his computer eligible for the lease and a legitimate business expense.
Since the minimum lease amount was $5000, there was no better time to pick up the items I've been holding off buying: a laptop, a new router, backup equipment, and a decent printer/scanner/copier/fax. And yet while my initial interest in Apple (at least in this case) was to meet my son's needs, the utter simplicity of Time Capsule backups (I needed both a wireless access point and a backup solution) and the thin, light, rugged MacBook Pro that could run Adobe CS5 without breaking a sweat ended up being too much to resist.
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At first I felt a little weird about signing on the dotted line for those lease docs. After all, I haven't been incredibly kind to Apple in this blog over the years. Even as I've seen the inherent value in iLife and OS X, the lack of real entry-level or multi-user environments was just too much for me to stomach in most educational settings. However, my needs aren't those of a school or the average student. My son is even meaner to his computers than I am and we both need something portable, powerful, and durable. In the durable, thin-and-light, power user laptop category, Macs fare much better than they do in the ultra-cheap categories where many schools need to live if they wish to head down the 1:1 road.
And $500 for a 2TB wireless backup drive that doubles as a high-end consumer 802.11n access point? That works with built-in software on 3 of the Macs in the house to ensure that our critical files are always backed up? And that can also act as a wireless print server? That has a whole lot of value, too. For me, for consumers, and for many SMBs, that is. For most schools, a backup system and solid wireless infrastructure will come out of enterprise systems, so once again, the Time Machine backup device I have coming wouldn't make the grade in many school settings.
As always, it comes down to clearly defining your needs and allowing your needs to dictate your budget rather than allowing a budget to dictate what you can afford. That's actually the beauty of leasing, regardless of your industry and, in this case, a lease allowed me to get a couple of high-end, extremely portable, easy to use, rough and tumble laptops at a price I can stomach every month. Every one of those qualities added more value for me as a content producer and small business owner than they would in the average classroom. Where iPod Touches or Intel Classmates might have the most value in a given classroom, neither of these would come close to meeting my needs or those of, for example, a graphic arts program in a technical high school.
The questions then become,
Answer those questions and you might walk away with a truck full of iMacs or a box full of netbooks. Talk back and let me know what your own needs analyses are turning up.