One of the accepted factors about the PC is that it is infinitely customizable. While this may be a boon for business, it's a major pain for MIcrosoft, since they have to make sure that Windows works properly despite the hardware configuration. Indeed, that they succeed even partly might be a miracle, but it is one key reason why it takes so long to upgrade their operating system.
This doesn't even take into account the compromises that have to be made. According to published reports of emails exchanged among Microsoft executives before the release of Windows Vista, it appears they caved to Intel and loosened system requirements for XP's successor. Otherwise, millions of PC notebooks equipped with Intel's i915 integrated graphics chip wouldn't be considered "Vista Capable."
Without going into the reasons, it's clear that such forced decisions may have caused lots of troubles for people who bought PCs equipped with Vista that performed poorly. This doesn't happen in the Mac universe because Apple makes the entire widget and they are quite capable of deciding which systems support a new operating system release and which are questionable, and thus abandoned.
Not that this stops some power users from using the old hardware anyway, but you still know you're taking chances and may not get the best user experience.
If a company wants to order Macs, they choose from the same lineup that's available to consumers. Yes, there is an Apple Store for Business, but the prices don't change, even though the advertising pitch and some of the bundles may differ.
Apple's argument is that they are offering fully equipped personal computers that are priced comparably to fully equipped Windows PCs. Macs are far less susceptible to malware, and are perfectly capable of running Windows out of the box courtesy of Boot Camp. With Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion, dozens of operating systems can be run in virtual machines simultaneously with Mac OS X.
Indeed, this multiple system environment is a huge selling point, because it means that a company can continue to use its legacy Windows applications, and gradually migrate to Mac versions, assuming they're available.
But that doesn't mean Apple doesn't adapt. One if the biggest visible changes to the MacBook line was to change it into a junior partner to the MacBook Pro, with the same basic form factor. By ditching plastics and adopting aluminum, the major model refresh delivered an elegant notebook that will appeal to lots of businesses who aren't interested in the larger screens or additional connection options of the Pro lineup.
Indeed, if you compare a standard midrange business notebook, the kind a company routinely hands out to their road warriors, you'll find that they are priced in the same legue as the MacBook. They wouldn't seriously consider the $799 notebook computer that you find on display at your neighborhood Wal-Mart. They are not serious business computers.
Apple also made the iPhone business friendly beginning with the 2.0 software update. There's full support for Microsoft Exchange, for example, and improved security. That, and the lower initial purchase price, surely helps encourage companies to consider the iPhone in place of the BlackBerry, which is precisely what happened last quarter.
For Snow Leopard, Exchange support will be embedded into the system itself, so Macs will gain the same capability. Indeed, maybe Microsoft won't sell so many copies of Office to users who require Exchange, but the price businesses pay for exchange licensing will yield far more profits in the end.
On the application front, in recent weeks I've heard more and more radio ads about software that now embraces the Mac. In fact, that's a big deal to them, and it clearly means that developers have come to realize that creating a Mac OS version of many of their products is a keystone for future growth. The fact that Mac sales are growing faster than PCs, even in this questionable economic environment, doesn't hurt.
Apple also has its own business applications that are targeted to content creators. I can't begin to count how many film and TV projects use Final Cut Studio in the post-production process. For audio, Apple cut the price of Logic Studio to $499 for a huge 14-pound box with loads and loads of extras. So musicians and studio owners who want to create professional caliber projects have a selection of extremely affordable yet extremely powerful tools.
You'll also find iWork listed in Apple's business arsenal. Although the three applications that make up the suite may not be as feature-laden as Microsoft Office, they are probably sufficient for 90% of the people who currently choose Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Indeed, none of those endlessly tedious PowerPoint presentations that are ubiquitous in the business world come close to Keynote. Don't believe me? Just watch the QuickTime video playback of any Steve Jobs presentation in recent years, and you'll see just how slick Keynote can be.
All these ingredients do make a credible case for businesses to adopt Macs. It may not always be easy, and adopting a new operating system and perhaps buying loads of new software licenses may not be a cheap proposition. But where productivity is accurately measured, Macs have traditionally come out ahead -- way ahead.
And now it appears that the enterprise is slowly getting the message.
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