Macs in the Enterprise: the Cost Factor

Few CIOs want to shell out recession-scarce dollars for pricy Macs for employees when a cheap PC will do just fine. But does it really save the company money?

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Mon, March 30, 2009

CIO — At A&E Television Networks, employees have to make a compelling case to get a Mac. More often than not, they're denied. That's because the high cost of a Mac is downright hard to justify, especially in these tough times.

"You can buy a PC for $400, while the cheapest Mac is over a thousand," says Jon Graff, director of IT operations at A&E. "In the real world, you're spending a lot more on a Mac. People really need to show why they can't get their work done on a PC."

[ Even Windows geeks want Macs, CIO reports. | As Mac adoption grows, IT grumbles about managing Macs in the enterprise. ]

Few CIOs want to shell out recession-scarce dollars for pricy Macs when a cheap PC will do just fine. Microsoft drove home this point last week with attack ads showing cash-strapped consumers choosing PCs over Macs. But are Macs really too costly in the business world?

Contrary to Graff, some tech leaders argue that the Mac makes up the cost difference with PCs in many ways. They cite fewer Mac support issues and even claim Macs improve employee morale. In cases where a business relies heavily on creative people, Macs are absolutely necessary to get the work done.

Macs and PCs battle it out over tech support

DVA, a distributor of video and audio equipment, is in the midst of a Mac makeover. The reason? CEO Brad Kugler, a Mac aficionado, was simply fed up with PC problems. "Sure, I was concerned of the cost of new Macs but I think I'm going to save money on maintenance," Kugler says. "Every month, I'm rebuilding somebody's PC yet I don't hear complaints from the Mac guys. Besides, the staff loves the move and thinks we're cool and hip."

Most Mac enterprise adopters contend that Mac's hardware reliability is well worth the higher outlay for the machines. The Mac OS X platform also gains vantage over Windows because it isn't as targeted as much by hackers and virus writers. "The Mac's failure rate is very low, lower than what I see with PC hardware," says Alex Morken, IT manager of Chris King Precision Components, which manufactures bicycle parts. "We make up the Mac cost difference with the amount of time we save, the projects we can get done, and the overall happiness of using Macs."

Nevertheless, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Jon Oltsik says Mac support can be daunting. Companies with mixed Windows-Mac environments tell him that their Mac population is only around 5 percent. "Of that 5 percent, a large portion are C-level folks, like CEOs and CFOs," Oltsik says. "Because of the expectations of executives, the PC support people say that providing Mac support occupies about 20 percent of their time."

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