Judging Enterprise Mac OS Adoption

Mac or PC? These four stories show who's really making the big operating system switch to Apple. And who's not.

The Mac OS has long been known as an operating system for graphic artists, creative folks and those who prefer to treat their personal computers as, well, personal. Widespread business use is almost unheard of. But lately there's been a lot of discussion that Apple may be about to make a big push into the enterprise market. Here are four stories about people and companies whose positive thoughts about their Windows-based PCs may be waning.

Web Development firm switched to Macs just last month

Glenn Romanelli, owner of Lightaus Design, Inc., a Web development firm in Smithtown, NY, says that although there are still a few PCs around the office, they will eventually be weeded out. Making the transition, Romanelli says, was a "no brainer."

"Have software that will only run on a PC? No problem," recounts Romanelli. "There is software for the Mac called VMWare that will run Windows like an application on the Mac." Using VMware, he says, you can install any Windows software you need and work just like you're on a PC. "Plus, there's no need to reboot to do this. As far as Microsoft Office goes, there is free software available for download on the Mac called NeoOffice and it will open and save Word docs and Excel files the same way Microsoft Office does." (For more free Mac software, see Seven Open-Source Mac Apps You Need Right Now.)

Even better: it saved the company money.

"Believe it or not, it was a cost issue. It was actually cheaper to buy iMacs than comparable PCs. A few years ago, this wasn't the case," Romanelli says.

Although cost is a determining factor for some, others' decisions are user-friendly based.

A tale of two medical centers and the OSs they run

For years, John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and of CareGroup, which runs the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, both located in Boston, MA, was a self proclaimed "tried and true" Windows user. But now, Halamka's family has Macs and he uses a MacBook Air.

But these days, says Halamka, "a platform shouldn't matter. Use what you prefer."

According to Halamka, Beth Israel has 8,000 PCs and Harvard Medical has 4,000 PCs and 4,000 Macs. Why the difference between the two places? "For a public access kiosk, a PC is better," Halamka says, referring to Beth Israel's computer system set up. "Apple just isn't there yet," Halamka adds.

At Harvard Medical, employees can choose their own operating system because the entire system is simply run differently than Beth Israel's—no public access kiosk. Macs are great for usability at the consumer level, Halamka says. Though his family found that learning the Mac system was easy, Halamka says that some people might be so used to the complexity of Windows that they treat a Mac the same way.

Artist switches from PC to Mac

Many people have switched to Macs after realizing how much the Apple computer's capabilities have improved over the years.

After using PCs during her college and early career years in the art field, Jenn Hoy, art director at Strategic Insights, Raleigh, NC, will now only use a Mac.

"For personal use, I just find Macs easier to use than PCs, even though I used PCs for years before switching. Especially now that they are becoming more mainstream, have more software options, and even can run Windows, I see no reason to not use a Mac," Hoy says, adding that her transition two years ago was pretty smooth. Yet, having to do website testing for her job meant she couldn't get rid of her PC so easily.

"As part of my job, I can't ignore Windows, since I need to test websites in a wide variety of browsers, including those only available in Windows," Hoy says. "The beauty of Mac is you can just run Parallels to run two operating systems at once—one Windows and one OSX—or run Bootcamp to start up your computer as if it was a Windows machine." Outside of website testing, Hoy's only other reason to choose Windows software is gaming. "Things like Office are just not necessary anymore, when there are free Web-based options available. This year I was introduced to OS 10.5, Parallels and Bootcamp. My PC has become a very large paperweight as a result, and I don't even miss it."

Obviously Hoy isn't alone in the art field with her Mac usage.

"They are standard in my industry," Hoy says. Though some people in her field still use PCs. "What's frightening is I've worked in more than one office that ran all PCs. I say 'frightening' because, as I mentioned before, Mac is the industry standard for graphics. In my current office, we have, I believe, 5 PCs and 10 Macs. PCs are reserved for administrative and sales employees, as well as our programmer."

Software engineer sticks to his PC

While he will continue to use his PC for now, Matt Soloway, a software engineer at IAVO Research & Scientific, says four changes to the Mac operating system could sway him: a lower price, tighter security, more software engineering tools and an OS that is less likely to crash.

Soloway says that around 80 percent of people at his company use PCs as opposed to Macs. He believes that within his industry, PCs outweigh Macs in popularity as well. Soloway says that though Macs have "their foot in the door" of the enterprise, he doubts they will become more widely used than PCs in that market. (Others disagree.)

Will the tide turn for Macs in the enterprise?

Although many are skeptical about Macs overtaking the enterprise, others feel that big changes to the Mac market may be right around the corner.

According to a Gartner release last January, by 2012, "Apple will double its U.S. and Western Europe unit market share in computers." But considering that some people are still wary of Macs, just who is adding to this share?

Christopher Smulders, managing vice president of client computing at Gartner, says that prediction was made based on brand awareness, compatibility, product design and consumer disappointment with Vista. Smulders also notes that "the share gains are primarily in the home and very small businesses."

"I think most Apple computers will enter enterprises in 2009 as a result of users connecting their own machines, rather than IT departments purchasing them," Smulders says.

Considering that many people do work on personal machines both at home and in the office due to a rise in telecommuting, this seems very likely. And plenty of people are following this trend.

Attorney Rob Fleming of Robert J. Fleming, PC, is a great example of this trend. "I use Mac at home and I think it is by far the better platform," he says, adding that his law firm plans to switch to Mac after its investment in PCs has ended. "We know some other small firms that have switched and they are very happy with Mac," Fleming says.

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