Taking Back the Market

Getting More Macs in the Workplace Despite the Recession

Tim Nash - 2009.02.09

Surveys such as ChangeWave (via Seeking Alpha) and ITIC/Sunbelt show that more would use Macs at work than currently do, but Apple has been transformed into a Consumer Electronics Company, so it's focus is largely elsewhere.

Apple has had to accept a minor presence in business since John Sculley failed to convince businesses that they should buy Macs in the late 80s and early 90s. At the time, IT departments wanted to take over control of departmental computing, and the obvious solution was PCs from IBM who supplied many of their other systems.

Slow to Change

Companies move slowly, and a large part of the work of IT departments is keeping old systems up to date. Although IT departments are always looking at new technology, they are naturally conservative, because they know that any new system has to be integrated with the systems the company already uses. New technology is often evaluated on whether it will do an existing task faster.

Changing systems is to be avoided unless a user or department sees that the new system is the solution to a problem critical to the company. Then the change often has to be forced on the IT department, because it always involves more work for the people already in the department.

Microsoft owns enduser business computing. Large parts of IT departments have Microsoft qualifications. Many of the internal custom-built systems only run on Windows. Purchasing departments love playing off the vendors against each other so they can obtain the best possible price for PCs. Much of senior management, even today, hasn't grown up with computing and thus doesn't have the background to argue against IT decisions.

Microsoft In a Bind

With the recession, few companies will want to spend money on moving from Windows XP, which for many is good enough. Although Microsoft has said that mainstream support for all versions of XP will end on April 14, extended support will be available for another five years. Also, Microsoft won't be able to stop selling XP, at least until Windows 7 is well established on netbooks, or risk driving OEMs like Asus and Acer firmly into the Linux camp. So XP will be the most widely used version of Windows, at least until the recession is nearing it's end.

Microsoft is also in a marketing bind. Business users want reliability. This is why many IT departments wait for Microsoft to release a couple of Service Packs before widely distributing a new version of Windows within the company. So they need to hear that Windows 7 is built on tried and tested code. It is, but that code is Vista, with all it's negative associations. The I'm a Mac/PC ads should be fun.

Target Users, Not IT

At this time there is no point in Apple devoting a large amount of resources in a broad attack on the business market. It would be an expensive failure. Microsoft is too well entrenched, and companies want to limit expenditures. Apple's strategy has to be built around "picking low hanging fruit".

In a recession, all businesses look for savings. As Macs are premium priced, companies that don't already buy Macs won't start now. However, Apple has taken over the $1000+ US market for consumers. Many people buying in this category will be in management, value their time, and want a computer that just works.

'Bring Your Own Mac'

A campaign for choice that promotes the cost savings of letting employees use their own computers in the office can start to introduce more Macs now. For the business, the computer then either costs nothing or the cost of an "employee provided computer" allowance.

Few IT departments will want to fight now against zero cost computers when they have spent many years arguing for Windows computers, because they are cheaper. When financial times are better, many of the IT departments will accept that the cost of supporting Mac users is no greater than Windows users, and there may also be some savings in Client Access Licenses, part of the Microsoft Tax. Familiarity often leads to acceptance, and after the recession IT, like other departments, will be fighting for larger budgets and need support from other departments to get them. Letting people use and departments buy Macs will be any easy concession.

Letting people choose to use their own Mac is likely to lead to less need for support. Only those who are confident in their use of a Mac will want to use it at work, and many problems will be sorted out on the usual informal network. Not having to shift between Windows at the office and Mac at home will also let people be more productive, as they can concentrate more on what they want to do rather than how to do it - and the more productive Mac users are seen to be, the more others will want to use Macs.

Macintosh Value

For companies that are interested in buying, stress that Macs are good for 4+ years and move away from the 3 year buying cycle for PCs. The new Unibody MacBooks look and feel as though they are built to last longer. Emphasize that Mac users can still install the latest version of the operating system over that time, and this is why Macs hold their value longer than PCs. Most people keep Macs for longer anyway, especially in a downturn, so few if any sales will be lost. This makes Macs cheaper for the business and better for the environment.

Windows on Macs

If buying good PCs that run XP becomes more difficult, using XP on Macs - either with Boot Camp or visualization software - will also give companies more time before they have to migrate. As many companies already run virtualization software (like VMware) to consolidate servers, running Windows on Macs can build on existing skill sets.

Malware and Road Warriors

The general lack of OS X malware is important for supporting Road Warriors, as they will often need to access the Internet and can't afford to have their PC unusable or come back to the office to have it rebuilt. Even the recent Trojan makes a useful point, as companies don't want employees downloading illegal copies of software, as that could make the company liable.

Low Cost Training

Training is another business budget that often suffers in downturns. "One to One" training at Apple retail stores is cheap at $99. Although it only covers Apple software, the record number of sessions last quarter shows there is strong demand. Business oriented courses, such as one built around making better presentations with lessons taken from Apple keynotes, would add to One to One's popularity, as would a premium priced One to One (say at $199) with priority booking like ProCare.

Productivity Wins

So at a time when many businesses can't give raises, they can give employees choice. The fewer frustrations, the more productive the employees will be, and the more likely they will stay when times get better. Of course, there will also be a silver lining in this for Apple - the more people see Macs at work, the more they will want to try them out, and the more switchers there will be. LEM

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Tim Nash is a Director of WattWenn which has a new approach to scheduling the production of TV and movies to make the most of budgets. The views in this article are his own and are prejudiced from spending more years working for computer companies than he cares to remember.

Tim lives with his wife, her website on the area ariege.com, two daughters, a cat, and a dog in the French Pyrenees. He lapsed for a while after the Apple II, but became a Mac fan when his wife introduced him to the Macintosh IIsi. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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