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High Cost Apple Switch

Apple LogoIt’s now local legend, but really a sad story for former employees and an important lesson for business. The number one trucking firm in Oklahoma, Arrow Trucking, ran its business on a Unisys mainframe. Everything else (like e-mail) ran on traditional servers, but until a few years ago, they used the powerful and reliable “big iron” for accounting and operations. As the story goes, the new president, Doug Pielsticker, couldn’t believe the company still used a mainframe and mandated an immediate switch to modern server systems. Two years later, the company went broke leaving employees without a final check. This outcome had nothing to do with mainframe versus servers, Apple vs. Microsoft. The bankruptcy came from ego, blindly following marketing hype, and poor decisions.

Of late, it is becoming vogue for CEOs to consider switching their entire technology infrastructure to Apple because they love the iPhone and iPad so much. The iPhone connects to Exchange for e-mail, plus it has all those shiny apps. The iPad gives you a larger form factor than the iPhone to browse the web and check e-mail with a crisp, sharp display. Then the hype kicks in and suddenly, “Mac has no viruses, the PC is dead, and we’ll all be cool and trouble-free!”  The iPhone and iPad are great products, but many folks are stunned and in disbelief when they hear:  Droid and Windows phones had “Siri-like” features for years before the iPhone figured it out; “Mac Defender/Protector” is a significant malware threat that Apple support cannot deny; and there is a $1,000 crime toolkit for ready download, designed specifically to target Americans with a disproportionate install base (approximately 10% of Americans versus the less than 5% worldwide Mac marketshare).

There are 5 main things to consider in going all Apple:

  1. What runs the business today? Unless you can do everything with Quickbooks for Mac, you’re going to have traditional Windows servers to run that accounting package, customer relationship management package, or other line-of-business applications. If there is no Mac client available for your main application, then you would have to double up and force everyone to either dual-boot to Windows or switch back and forth between virtual Windows – thus, slowing down the Mac considerably.
  2. Are you ready to change everything and what do your customers use? If you have to use the same systems as your customers or interact with their files, you’ll want to use what they use to make things simple and easy for both them and you. Beyond iPhone and iPad, it’s still a Windows-dominant world. There is an Apple equivalent (not version) of most applications. The problem is understanding what works together and wading through the myriad of unknown and untested software manufacturers.
  3. What kind of training does your staff need? While colleges have had dual Windows and Mac labs for years, unless you have a very young staff, they aren’t going to know how to use a Mac. Even the switch from PC Mac 101 has over 25 lessons to learn before knowing only how to do the basics.
  4. How often are you willing to upgrade? The warranty on all Apple products is just 1 year.  One year.  And Apple only officially supports the current shipping OS. The equipment obviously lasts longer than a year, but the push is always to stay current with the latest and greatest. OS upgrades often require application upgrades that require more powerful hardware. You get the picture. Now, isn’t that 3 year warranty on PC workstations plus Windows Servers with 10 years support on software sounding pretty good?
  5. Who is going to support you? There is only one Apple store in town in the middle of the mall. Geek Squad at Best Buy can setup your home theater, but aren’t equipped to handle your business support beyond basic repairs. That little 2 year-old startup with the neat smartcars that instantly converts everyone to e-mail addresses only has two people in town.

For the fanboys on both sides, we prepared a comparison of hardware cost but decided not to include it. Apple servers were actually less than traditional servers (but what applications would they run?), while Apple iPhone, iPad, and Macs cost more than their Windows counterparts. However, you can always find a cheaper price of various commodity products somewhere to skew the results either way. The real difference and major cost are the 5 points above.

Mr. Pielsticker ran with the perception that mainframes were antiquated, not understanding that even Apple and Microsoft both use them today. He believed the hype of his day and purchased the hottest transportation package that had 37 different applications all with custom integration. No one knew how to run the new systems, which totally changed decades of proven business operations. Worse yet, IT had no way to support the myriad of new things that often didn’t play well together. Finally, Arrow couldn’t find the trucks or ensure delivery and the rest is history.

Most of our engineers cut their teeth on Apple. Many of our staff carry iPhones, and all of our board members have iPads. We regularly join Macs to domains. The technical stuff is easy to master, but what our customers look to us for is also business acumen. Use what you like; we don’t care one way or the other. We’re agnostic, as the profit margin on hardware is miniscule and not our focus. However, make smart decisions. The high-cost apple switch is also very high risk. Remember the story of Mr. Pielsticker, and after you change everything in your business for marketing hype, how will that help your customers or your profitability?

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